Members of the Medford City Council take a walk down the Bear Creek Greenway near the Rogue Valley Mall. - Bob Pennell

Spruced-up Greenway impresses City Council

Strolling along the Greenway, the Medford City Council got a glimpse Thursday of what the riparian corridor along Bear Creek should look like.

"It's really cleaned up nicely," said Councilor Eli Matthews.

A team of volunteers has been busy cleaning up both sides of the creek next to Hawthorne Park, as well as just to the north past the Fourth Street bridge.

This summer, volunteers hope they can secure a $30,000 grant to keep heading north and clean up the riparian corridor all the way to East McAndrews Road.

The council is looking at remodeling Hawthorne Park this summer at a cost of about $1.5 million.

Brian Sjothun, parks and recreation director, said the immediate plan is to continue the cleanup from Hawthorne Park to East McAndrews Road.

"This was a sleeping spot for some residents," Sjothun said, pointing to an area cleared of blackberry bushes where homeless people likely spent the night.

"I used to ride this all the time when I went to work, but it never looked this good," Councilor John Michaels said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation also has been cutting through vegetation on the east side of the Greenway near McAndrews, while the city will concentrate on the west side.

Eventually, if the city finds the funding, lights will be installed every 100 feet from Hawthorne to McAndrews. Every so often, a panic button might be installed on a street light pole that could be used to alert responders when there's an emergency.

The estimated cost to install the lighting along 3,700 feet of Greenway is about $150,000.

"The idea is that we'd be returning a recreational opportunity back to the community," Sjothun said.

If the city wanted to install lighting from U.S. Cellular Park to the north end of town, Sjothun said the cost would be pushing $700,000.

The council wanted to get a look at the results following a comprehensive plan to clean up the banks of Bear Creek from 10th Street to McAndrews.

The Rogue Valley Council of Governments previously developed a restoration plan that recommended removal of invasive species by hand and through the use of herbicides.

Once the invasive plants are removed, native vegetation such as willows, dogwood, elderberry, ash and other species would be planted.

Maintenance will be required for three to five years to eradicate weeds, particularly the blackberry bushes.

Jim Hutchins, who has spearheaded the cleanup effort, said native plants require three years of care to make sure they survive. With proper care, the survival rate is 90 percent, he said. Without it, it's only 30 percent.

Behind the former Red Lion Hotel, blackberries used to cover the entire bank up to the building. Its new owners, Doug and Becky Neuman, who changed the name to Inn at the Commons, have worked with a volunteer group to clean up the blackberries in preparation for native vegetation to be planted.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him at

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