Jackson County will no longer pay to pave unimproved and gravel roads, putting the financial responsibility on property owners, commissioners decided Wednesday.
The county will provide maintenance on those roads if they are brought up to current construction standards.
County officials blame dwindling federal timber dollars that once went into the road fund as the primary reason for the policy.
"It's purely a budget and cost issue," said Jackson County Roads and Parks Director John Vial. "Before, when we had lots of timber revenue, that would have made lots more sense."
The road fund has lost about $4 million in federal money since 2008.
Vial said remaining funds are needed for emergencies and cannot be spent on road improvements or paving work.
"There's no way for us to finance that now," Vial said.
There are about 77 miles of unimproved roads and 164 miles of county-maintained gravel roads in Jackson County.
In the past, the county provided financial assistance for paving unimproved roads if a private party brought them up to standards, but County Administrator Danny Jordan said requests for those improvements have slowed.
"We haven't had many of these happen in many years," Jordan said.
The county also used to split the cost with property owners to pave gravel roads. But as with unimproved roads, county officials said they can no longer afford to continue.
From 1999 to 2006, the county had the goal of paving one mile a year on gravel roads, but dwindling timber funds ended that practice in 2007.
Peggy Streetman, an Ashland resident who takes walks down an unimproved section of Granite Street outside Ashland, said it and similar sections close to towns should be paved because of the dust vehicles can kick up as walkers, runners and bikers pass.
"The only way to get away from that is to get on real hiking trails," Streetman said.
Mark Hill, also of Ashland, said he doesn't think there's a point to having the stretch paved. Pedestrians would be better served, he said, by vehicles just reducing their speeds.
"There's no community reason to pave it. There's no purpose," he said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.