Those aren't sharks on overpass, but salmon

Can you explain why we have sharks on the overpass walls at Barnett Road and Interstate 5. The Rogue Valley and the Rogue River are known for salmon, steelhead and trout. I have traveled in other states and many of them have interesting decorations that relate to something in that area. For instance, Phoenix, Ariz., has cactus, lizards and desert scenes. It seems strange to me that Medford has sharks.

— Betty M., Shady Cove

Betty, you're not the first to mistake a fish with fins for a shark.

While a shark sculpted in the concrete of the South Medford interchange does have a certain "huh" factor, which might be amusing, the creature you're looking at is actually the more-native-to-the-area salmon.

Gary Leaming, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said numerous other people have confused the salmon for sharks and even carp.

"The aesthetics were the product of a committee working on the north Medford interchange in the early parts of 2001 or 2002," Leaming said.

The North Interchange Citizens Advisory Committee, which was helping to develop the project, wanted to showcase something representative of the area. At first, the decision was to incorporate salmon, Douglas fir and pears into the design, but cattails later replaced the pear.

Jacksonville designer Carmine Petretto was recruited to turn those local objects into a design. A plastic form line, or cookie cutter for concrete, was designed to create the rendering, which also was used on the south Medford interchange.

Catch a glimpse of these fish at the south Medford exit on the on- and off-ramp walls or at the north Medford exit on the east side of the northbound off ramp along Biddle Road.

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