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A Cycle Oregon Rider descends Dead Indian Memorial Road, on part of a route that is being considered as a state scenic bike route. - Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Going Greensprings

ASHLAND — The 18-mile trip up the Greensprings Highway can be a real thigh-burner for road cyclists like Matt Walker of Ashland, but the rewards come quickly.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Lunch at the Green Springs Inn, then a pedal past Hyatt Lake that occasionally is cloaked with millions of iridescent blue dragonflies. A short jaunt north past the Howard Prairie wetlands and then a coast down Dead Indian Memorial Road toward home, a four-hour getaway that's as heart-smart as it is picturesque.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"It's a real popular ride here, probably the best," says Walker, a 61-year-old Ashlander who leads weekend rides for the Siskiyou Velo club. "It's the lake ride, as we call it."{br class="hardreturn" /}
The 55-mile route could be called the Cascade/Siskiyou State Scenic Bikeway as early as this spring under a new proposal to put that stamp of approval on a route worth recommending to out-of-towners or locals new to the area and its rich cycling community. {br class="hardreturn" /}
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's State Scenic Bikeways Committee is in the midst of reviewing a proposal for such designation, making it the first such ride to garner state scenic status in Southern Oregon.{br class="hardreturn" /}
While it wouldn't change the ride for Walker and other riders, state designation could turn into a draw for out-of-towners looking for a clearly defined opportunity to burn a few calories between stints in wine country and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"If you come to the area and you Google rides and this comes up as a state scenic bikeway, you'll be more likely to bring your bike and check it out. That's better than calling all the bike shops and chit-chatting about where to ride.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"It can't hurt," he says.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The trek is one of a dozen proposed scenic bikeways in the works statewide, says Alex Phillips, bicycle recreation specialist for the state parks department. A 61-mile bikeway stretch in and around Port Orford is the only other route being considered in the southern part of the state.{br class="hardreturn" /}
They are all nominated and championed by local organizers who go through a series of steps that sells the idea to the state's Bikeway Committee, then they sell it to the community to gather local support. After a bikeway plan is completed and public comment is taken on it at an open hearing, the proposal goes to the commission for final adoption.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The idea for the Cascade/Siskiyou trail arose in 2012 when Ashland hosted Cycle Oregon riders, many of whom rode the loop as a side-ride.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Knowing what the region has to offer cyclists and what riders can do for the region got city, county, state and federal managers interested in doing more to tap into the cycle-touring phenomenon that Travel Oregon says pumps $400 million annually into Oregon — with $40 million of it in Southern Oregon.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"We're a base camp to all this outdoor beauty and adventure," says Katharine Cato, marketing director for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. "Putting the scenic trail together would allow us to invite people to enjoy Ashland in new ways."{br class="hardreturn" /}
Organizers settled on an existing route that begins and ends at Ashland's Garfield Park, adding no new roads or trails.{br class="hardreturn" /}
After riding out of downtown on East Main Street, riders head south on the Greensprings Highway, riding the shoulder of that two-lane highway 18 miles to the Greensprings before turning left onto East Hyatt Lake Road then onto Hyatt Dam Road before traveling past Hyatt and Howard Prairie lakes while on Hyatt Prairie Road, the main arterial road there.{br class="hardreturn" /}
A full 35 miles into the trip, cyclists turn left onto Dead Indian Memorial Road for a 17-mile descent to the intersection with the Greensprings Highway.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The route can be found online at http://ridewithgps.com/routes/2262835.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Walker says most local riders prefer to head up the Greensprings Highway and down Dead Indian Memorial Road because the highway stretch is less steep and has more sweeping curves that help keep cyclists more visible to motorists.{br class="hardreturn" /}
That's even more true in spring and early summer, when trout anglers towing boats toward Howard Prairie travel up Dead Indian Memorial Road, and it's easier having that armada a lane away, Walker says.{br class="hardreturn" /}
It's made for cyclists who enjoy 50-mile weekend rides.{br class="hardreturn" /}
"It's not for the beginning riders, for sure," Cato says. "And we're not necessarily putting bikes where they shouldn't be. They're already there."{br class="hardreturn" /}
The state's Bikeway Committee cycled the route in the summer of 2013, giving it a thumbs-up, Cato says. A public open house last fall saw good support, and a Bicycle Tourism Studio Workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 18 at The Grove in Ashland to garner and quantify community support, Cato says.{br class="hardreturn" /}
The route's management plan is almost complete, and Cato says she hopes to see the project go before the committee as early as late spring.{br class="hardreturn" /}
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.{br class="hardreturn" /}
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