Cyclists connect online

    Rogue Valley cyclists have two new online ways to share information about local cycling opportunities and information affecting their pastime.

    The links, offered through Google Groups service, were created last month as a way for local cyclists to connect without being part of an organized club, says Rick Berlet, a semi-retired business consultant from Ashland who created the groups.

    The two groups sport about 70 members, Berlet says.

    "It's beginning to build," Berlet says. "There have already been three or four rides resulting from it."

    The email link is intended to be a clearinghouse for anyone who wants to initiate or join group rides with people of similar skills and fitness levels. Those who sign up will receive email alerts from other members about ride times, locations and difficulty ratings.

    "It's like, if you wake up this morning and want to go for a ride, you can get some more people involved who want to go," Berlet says.

    The second link,, is for people to share information of general interest to cyclists in the region, such as road hazards, construction or closures, pending legislation, events and cycling safety issues.

    "It's for more like cycling advocacy," Berlet says.

    Like other Google Groups sites, membership in these groups is by invitation. An invitation can be obtained by sending your name and email address to Berlet at

    Permits go on sale Monday for Southern Oregonians looking to cut their own Christmas trees on nearby federal forestlands.

    The $5 permit allows for the personal-use cutting of one Christmas tree, according to Virginia Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

    Permits are nonrefundable, and there is a limit of five permits per person.

    The permits cover the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest and the Coos Bay and Medford districts of the Bureau of Land Management. Maps with directions to cutting areas are available with the permits.

    Christmas-tree cutting is banned in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Wild and Scenic sections of the Rogue River and federal recreation areas, campgrounds, research natural areas and areas of critical environmental concern.

    The Bureau of Land Management has closed the access gate to Bear Camp Road, barring motorists from traveling the route from Galice to Agness along the Rogue River.

    The gate on the Galice side of the road will remain locked until spring. BLM typically tries to have the road open for Memorial Day weekend.

    The agency typically closes the route in November when early, high-elevation snowstorms block access along the windy, often single-lane road.

    The access has been blocked in winter since 2006, when the Kim family of California became stuck in snow while trying to take the Bear Camp route to the lower Rogue River. James Kim died, but his wife and two children survived.

    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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