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City considers cost to light up bike pathway

Illuminating the path might not make it safer, some officials say
 Posted: 2:00 AM December 15, 2011

It will be a few months into 2012 before the Ashland City Council will have a chance to examine the possibilities of lighting the nearly 2-mile-long Central Ashland Bike Path.

City officials are determining the cost and feasibility of installing lights along the path, and the council will use a study session in March, its first available opening, to discuss the project.

Friends of 23-year-old David Michael Grubbs, who was murdered on the bike path as night was falling on Nov. 19, presented 1,726 signatures to the council on Dec. 6, advocating that lighting be installed.

Preliminary work done by the city found that installing and running electricity to 83 pedestrian lights along the path, each about 12 to 14 feet tall, would cost about $385,000, said Jim Olson, the city's engineering services manager and interim director of the public works department, which maintains the bike path.

"There are plenty of other options, though," he said. "This is just something we've done."

Olson said the city will research numerous other arrangements for the potential project, which likely would span the 1.8 miles of the Central Ashland Bike Path, between Tolman Creek Road and Sixth Street. Spacing between lights, types of lights, maintenance, and operating schedules all come into play while trying to figure out preliminary costs, he said.

"There are some pros and cons, of course, to all of it," said Larry Patterson, interim city administrator. "Hopefully, we can come up with something that the whole community can agree on."

Olson said creating too much ambient light is one con, because, in the past, citizens have raised concerns over Ashland keeping unnecessary and bothersome lighting to a minimum.

On the other side, Patterson said lighting the bike path might lead people to expect the city to light other dark places across town.

Karen Smith, a former special project manager for Jackson County who oversaw the Bear Creek Greenway for nearly 30 years, said more lighting doesn't necessarily mean the bike path would be safer.

"The far better solution is to sign the trail, 'Closed from sunset to sunrise,' so people know they are on the trail at their own risk," she said. "The public wants to be guaranteed 100 percent safety when they're outside, and that just can't happen."

Currently, the Greenway is closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., said special projects manager for the county, Jenna Stanke, but that rule isn't strictly enforced.

"Truth is, we have some late-night commuters and early-morning commuters," Stanke said.

Ashland Parks Director Don Robertson said lighting any public facility doesn't guarantee it will be safer.

"Sometimes the lights attract more people, and if you have it lit after hours, you don't know who will show up . . . the potential for illegal activity could rise in that case," he said.

Conversely, however, he noted, "By having a dark facility, it invites people to go in and do bad things under the cover of darkness. . . . Those are the two schools to it. I think both of them have some validity."

Brittany Hamer, 23, of Ashland, one of Grubbs' close friends, presented the petition and lighting proposal to the City Council last week. She started collecting signatures for the petition on Nov. 29.

She said research shows that lighting promotes a safer environment by deterring offenders who fear they may be recognized or interrupted, making police more visible and increasing the number of people who use a path, which boosts surveillance by citizens.

"I think it will be a beneficial thing to the community," she said. "It's not to impede on anybody's privacy . . . it's just to give people light in the dark."

Hamer opened an account at Umpqua Bank to collect donations for the effort to install lights along the bike path, and to build a memorial plaque in honor of Grubbs there. It has $187, after an anonymous $100 donation on Monday.

Donations for the "David Michael Grubbs Bike Path Fund," can be made at any Umpqua Bank branch.

During the presentation to council members, Hamer and her friends said their research showed that installing compact fluorescent lights along 21/2; miles of the bike path would cost about $150,000, while installing solar-powered, antique-looking lamp posts along seven miles of the path would cost almost $500,000.

"That still doesn't necessarily guarantee that we wouldn't have something happened like what already did," said Patterson. "We know it's an important issue right now in our community, and we want people to know that we're considering it very seriously."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.


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