The Bear Creek Greenway is being considered for a state trail designation that would boost its visibility and provide additional protection in land-use decisions.
The designation of the nearly 18-mile stretch of mostly paved trail that spans the Rogue Valley from Ashland to Central Point will be discussed at an open house from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Coyote Trails School of Nature, 2931 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.
The Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council will take public comments at the meeting on the potential designation of the Greenway as a State Designated Regional Trail. If it is designated, it would be the first Southern Oregon trail to receive the state recognition.
"The designation is more of an honorarium to identify how important the trail is to your region," said Rocky Houston, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department state trails coordinator. "It doesn't mean that the state comes in and takes ownership of it. It's still managed locally."
A regional trail designation is one of three under the state's State Trail Designation Program. Qualifying trails are nonmotorized trails that connect communities, recreation sites, schools and other trails. They must be at least 5 miles in length, open to the public, mostly complete, and on public lands or a public right of way. "It's exactly right up the Bear Creek Greenway's alley," said Jenna Stanke, bicycle pedestrian manager for Jackson County Parks.
"It's definitely a regional trail in a true regional trail sense in terms of connecting communities."
A 1.5-mile section of unpaved trail between Pine Street and Upton Road near Central Point will go to bid Thursday. When that section is finished, the entire trail will cover nearly 20 miles.
Other designations under the program include scenic trails, usually reserved for more rural, natural spots, and scenic bikeways, which see much higher use among touring cyclists on roads with lower traffic volume, Houston said. Stanke said Jackson County Parks also has submitted a scenic bikeway application, which will be under review in October, for the greenway.
Houston said the greenway's regional trail designation would lead to additional marketing for the trail on the Oregon Parks and Travel Oregon websites, providing better exposure for tourism.
"When you come to Oregon, it'll hopefully be farther up the list," Houston said. "It provides sort of a tourism economic hook."
He said the designation also provides additional protections if land-use issues arise that could affect use of the trail.
"It provides another review process to help with that," Houston said.
Following public comment at the Aug. 8 meeting, the trails council would consider nominating the trail to move the process along. An official designation could be finalized as early as September.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at email@example.com.