This photograph shows Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue River. The Greenway could follow Gold Ray Road along this stretch.

Sportsmen, controversy abound

CENTRAL POINT — In a booth at the Jackson County Sportsmen's and Outdoor Recreation Show, Gold Hill neighbors on Friday warned anglers about a proposal to close a one-lane gravel road to traffic at a popular fishing hole.

At another booth at the show, Jackson County officials explained the benefits of building the Rogue River Greenway and Recreation Corridor, which might require closing the 1.2-mile stretch of Gold Ray Road to vehicles.

Many of the fishermen didn't like the idea.

"I think if they have a road there, they should keep it there," said 49-year-old Lynn Brager, who recently moved to Gold Hill.

Brager was one of hundreds who stopped by the booth at the outdoor show, which continues through Sunday at the Jackson County Expo.

In a little over an hour, more than 100 people had signed a petition opposing the proposal.

"It's been an incredible reaction," said Gary Frost, one of the neighbors along Upper River Road, which connects to Gold Ray Road. "I've heard from many anglers and many kayakers."

Greenway supporters are considering closing the road to vehicle traffic from Gold Ray Dam to where it connects with Upper River Road near a primitive boat launch. The section of Gold Ray is squeezed between the Rogue River on one side and railroad tracks and steep hills on the other.

Supporters want to create a 30-mile extension of the Bear Creek Greenway, which currently runs from Ashland to Central Point. Instead of a primitive boat launch they want to build a new, modern facility that would have bathrooms and ample parking.

Neighbors have a different set of concerns from the anglers.

They say the intersection at Upper River and Blackwell roads in Gold Hill already is difficult to negotiate as trucks from Interstate 5 compete with residents hauling horse trailers. The intersection also is offset slightly with Gold Hill 99 Spur, making it more confusing, neighbors say.

With more vehicles expected along Upper River Road as the Greenway is developed, neighbors fear traffic and accidents will increase.

Frost said he's worried it will take more time for emergency vehicles to get through the two barriers if the road is closed. Greenway supporters think it will be easier to negotiate a paved lane even with the two locked gates rather than negotiating a road that isn't up to county standards.

Frost also was suspicious that the Greenway supporters had reserved their booth after his group had signed up.

Mike Kuntz, Jackson County engineer, said he had no idea Frost and the other neighbors would have a booth at the show. He said the decision to have a booth was just a sincere attempt to reach out to fishermen.

Brian Coulter went to both booths so he could hear both sides of the issue and came away thinking some kind of compromise could be reached.

Still, the 52-year-old Prospect resident said, "I'm concerned about limiting access to these areas."

Kuntz told Coulter that the proposal to close the road to vehicle traffic is just conceptual at this point. He said the proposal is the easiest option and possibly the most economical.

"There is no room there," he said. "It is so tight."

Other options being looked at include widening the road as much as possible to allow one lane for vehicles and another lane for the Greenway.

Building cantilevered sections or retaining walls are some of the options that will be considered, he said.

Another level area about 200 feet above the road is also a possibility, but creating a route that would be compatible for the disabled is a problem, he said.

And any of those options could be extremely expensive, Kuntz said.

After listening to Kuntz, Coulter said, "It's a real juggling match for land-use managers."

Many of the people who didn't support closing Gold Ray Road appeared to support the idea of a Greenway.

"It will be a fantastic project when you get it all done," said Coulter.

Anglers who wanted to close the road didn't get any sympathy from Jimmie Whitman.

"A fisherman can walk that distance," said the 62-year-old Wilderville resident who walks five miles a day. "That's not very far."

But Medford resident Tom Maddox said he's worried about people with disabilities. "It makes it harder for them to get out there and participate," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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