A much-debated leg of a pedestrian and bicycle trail on the northern edge of the Rogue Valley Manor's Quail Point Golf Course could be ready to clear one of its final hurdles.
The 3,500-foot-long section of the Larson Creek Trail from Ellendale Drive to Black Oak Drive will be reviewed by the Medford Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the council chambers in City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St.
"It's a long-anticipated and crucial segment within that system," said Matt Brinkley, director of Medford's planning department.
Medford planners have recommended approval of the trail.
A 1,500-foot section of the path has been built from the Bear Creek Greenway to Ellendale Drive. The second leg, which would run past the golf course and come close to townhouses on Hilldale Avenue, would extend from Ellendale to Black Oak and require construction of two bridges.
In 2014, the City Council worried about the trail's impacts on 12 townhouses that overlook the golf course but approved spending $1.08 million for the second leg of the trail, which ultimately would link the Bear Creek Greenway to North Phoenix Road.
Owners of the townhouses complained the trail would run a few feet from the backs of their properties that overlook the golf course.
Many property owners purchased their townhouses with the assumption they owned the land some 10 to 12 feet behind their decks up to a chain-link fence abutting the golf course. However, the property line is actually much closer to the townhomes, in some cases just off their back deck.
Some of the property owners have expressed concerns about vandalism or illegal camping once the trail is extended.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials also raised concerns about the potential loss of habitat in building the trail close to Larson Creek. Along some areas of the creek, little natural habitat remains.
The ODFW found the multi-use path would result in a net loss of riparian habitat. For every 64 feet of trail, the city would plant three trees to partially offset any loss of vegetation. Any vegetation that is disturbed would be replaced and invasive species would be removed. Other native vegetation would be added to provide shade for the stream.
A planning document prepared on June 13 states the trail could attract more local residents who would be a check on undesirable uses such as camping, littering and dumping.
The trail would be 10- to 12-feet-wide with shoulders and take up 7.32 acres. Planning for the trail started in 2003 with a master plan readied in July 2007. Once built, the trail would become the designated bike lane for Barnett Road.
The Public Works Department would oversee the project, and it would still require an easement from a property owned by the Knights of Columbus on Black Oak Drive.
"Right-of-way negotiations are underway," said Cory Crebbin, Public Works director.
He said there are a number of regulatory steps ahead, but barring any complications, the project could be completed by next summer.