The city of Ashland's new Mike Uhtoff Trail honors a local businessman who led the effort to protect the land in the 1990s.

An Ashland man who worked for years to preserve public forestlands and hiking areas around the city has been honored posthumously with a trail named after him.

The Mike Uhtoff Trail, which connects with the White Rabbit Trail above Park Street in Siskiyou Mountain Park, honors the local businessman, naturalist and teacher who died in 2009.

Uhtoff spearheaded a fundraising drive in the 1990s to preserve the land that became Siskiyou Mountain Park.

"He was instrumental in that park being created in the first place," said Diane Garcia of the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy.

The Mike Uhtoff Trail, for use by hikers only, is a half-mile loop connecting with the White Rabbit Trail, a popular hiking and biking trail. The trails are part of the Creek to Crest trail system, running through Siskiyou Mountain Park from the top of Park Street.

The trail is well shaded with a canopy of mature conifers. It is relatively steep in areas and offers views of the valley below as well as some giant boulders along the path.

Jeff McFarland, central division manager for the Ashland parks department and manager of the Oredson-Todd Woods and the Siskiyou Mountain Park, had identified the area as a location for a trail three years ago. Soon after Uhtoff died, the parks commission approved naming the trail in commemoration of Uhtoff's efforts to protect natural areas in and around Ashland.

In 1991, Uhtoff, then president of the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, organized efforts to help the city buy 110 acres which now make up part of the 271-acre Siskiyou Mountain Preserve. The parcel was purchased by the city and the entire park was permanently protected in its natural state through a conservation easement held by the land conservancy.

Uhtoff died at age 70 in February 2009. Since 1985, he had been the owner of the Northwest Nature Shop in Ashland along with his wife, Kathy, who survives him.

He was also an important figure in protecting the Oredson-Todd Woods and in the creation of the North Mountain Park Nature Center, according to city officials.

Two youth crews from the Job Council worked on the project, along with crew boss Christie Lawson and McFarland, who served as project supervisor.

Funding for the project came to the Job Corps from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds given to the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps for the Oregon Youth Employment Initiative.

The youth crew members, age 16 to 21, learned how to design, lay out and build a trail, skills that could help them in future jobs such as firefighting, landscaping and biology, according to city officials. The crews worked 30 to 32 hours a week and earned minimum wage.

Reach reporter and editor Myles Murphy at 482-3456 ext. 222 or mmurphy@dailytidings.com.