A majority of Bear Creek Greenway users visit the pathway for exercise and most are older, according to a survey of 164 users conducted Oct 30 through Nov 6 by two Southern Oregon University students.

A majority of Bear Creek Greenway users visit the pathway for exercise and most are older, according to a survey of 164 users conducted Oct. 30 through Nov. 6 by two Southern Oregon University students.

"People appreciate that we have such a great asset for the community. It's really great because (the path) goes through all the towns," said Geoffrey Topper, who conducted the survey along with Jonathan Spickler as part of their applied business research class.

Bicyclists, walkers, runners, commuters, wildlife observers and others use the 21-mile path that runs mostly along Bear Creek between Ashland and Central Point. The pair took surveys at eight different locations for a total of 35.5 hours, beginning as early as 6 a.m. and going as late as 5 p.m. over six days.

The project marked perhaps the most comprehensive user survey in the Greenway's history, said Jenna Stanke, Jackson County's Greenway coordinator. Recent Greenway user surveys have only been for one day at a time, she said.

Sixty percent of the visitors said they visited the Greenway for exercise, while 15 percent reported they were commuters and 13 percent were there for recreation. Two-thirds of the respondents (66 percent) were age 50 or older, while those between the ages of 40 to 49 accounted for 16 percent of respondents.

Sixty-five percent of the respondents were male, 54 percent were walkers, 40 percent were bicyclists, 8 percent used it to watch birds and wildlife and 5 percent were joggers. Medford residents accounted for 42 percent of those surveyed, while Ashlanders accounted for 20 percent.

Three-fifths of participants (61 percent) usually don't use a vehicle to get to a Greenway access point . Nearly half, 47 percent, use the pathway for five miles or less per visit, while 22 percent cover 5 to 10 miles.

Respondents rated the path's overall condition between fair and good on a five-point scale. Bumps caused by root growth under the pavement, vegetation management problems, and the presence of trash and animal feces were the most mentioned maintenance concerns.

Topper said the pair noticed that fewer younger people stopped to complete the 14-question survey, and that a number of bicyclists rode past the table.

"I think they just didn't want to stop and cool down too much. Runners may not have wanted to stop their workouts," said Topper. "Some of them may have been commuters that wanted to get to work."

Dog walkers seemed more inclined to stop, Topper noted. Statistics were not gathered on how many walkers had dogs, but he said they represented a significant number. Weather conditions probably affected the sample size and response rate, the pair reported.

Stanke has shared the data with other county officials and the five municipalities along the route. It may be used in grant applications, although most of those also require user counts, she said.

"The research reinforces that there is a lot of use out there and that people are relatively happy with the trail," said Stanke. "It was a rainy week when they did this, and they still got 164 people to stop and talk with them."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.