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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneLarry Butts waves to a truck driver heading up Roxy Ann Peak on his way to the rock quarry through Prescott Park.

Commissioners split on gravel truck access to Roxy Ann

A divided Medford Parks and Recreation Commission won’t make a recommendation on renewing a contract for gravel trucks to continue having access through a city park to a rock quarry on Roxy Ann Peak.

A road and numerous trails in Prescott Park on the upper reaches of Roxy Ann are popular with walkers, joggers, equestrians and bike riders, but the narrow road has also been the longtime thoroughfare for gravel trucks headed to and from the quarry.

While some members of the commission said in a meeting last week they didn’t like the trucks sharing the roadway with the park users, others saw the potential for litigation from Burl Brim Excavation if the city didn’t renew the contract.

“Ironically, this could put the rock pit and the city between a rock and a hard place,” Commissioner Rich Hansen said.

The May 29 vote on the contract was 4-4, with Hansen making the motion to support it.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Medford City Council will take up the issue, which has been contentious in previous years.

Despite making the motion in support, Hansen said it’s not ideal to have park users share the road with gravel trucks.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that as we expand Prescott Park, it gets busier and more dangerous with the trucks,” he said.

But the quarry has been there for decades and has a right to use the road, he said. The need for gravel to build roads and houses is important for the local economy as well, he said.

Trucks aren’t the only thing that speeds along the roadway, Hansen said.

On Friday, a gravel truck lumbered up the hill to the quarry, but other passenger vehicles drove past at speeds well above the posted 15 mph limit.

The quarry has operated at that location since 1956. Since the mid-1980s, the terms of agreements between the city and quarry operators have varied. At one time, daily truck trips were limited to 24. The current agreement, signed in 2013, does not limit trips, and one neighbor said he’s counted as many as 60 trucks in a day.

Trucks are allowed to operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., only on weekdays. Quarry operator Burl Brim has said he insists drivers adhere to the rules.

Larry Butts, who lives near Prescott Park, has been opposed to expansion efforts in the past and would prefer the owners of the quarry lived up to a vow made in 2004 to give the pit to the city once the rock had played out.

“I’m not trying to shut them down,” he said.

Instead, he said the city has accepted continued expansions of the quarry. Because of the expansions, the quarry probably has another 75 years to go before it runs out of rock, Butts said.

As a result, more trucks now use the road.

“Instead of 24 round trips a day like they used to do, we’re seeing 60 or 70 now,” he said.

Butts said the Planning Commission had a difficult time taking a stand on the issue because of potential legal issues with the owners/operators of the pit — Brim and developers Mike Mahar and Randy Jones.

Julian Cordle, chair of the Planning Commission, voted against the contract, saying he has reservations about the agreement as well as safety concerns for park users.

“It’s definitely not an easy decision,” he said.

Cordle said he would like “loopholes” in the contract to be cleared up, making it more palatable.

“For me, the verbiage allows unlimited use during those hours,” he said. A cap on the number of trips a day would be helpful, Cordle said.

Brim has given assurances that trucks are encouraged to adhere to the speed limit. But Cordle noted, “The drivers of those trucks are not employees of the rock pit, and the pit operators don’t have the authority over them that they would have if they were employees.”

He said the quarry does a good job of maintaining the road, and agreed with Hansen that the quarry provides materials that are essential to the local economy.

Cordle said he will push for developing a plan to minimize the potential conflicts from trucks, hikers and cyclists sharing the same road.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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