Jackson County's Bear Creek Greenway is growing by a mile.

Jackson County's Bear Creek Greenway is growing by a mile.

A construction project now under way will create a mile-long segment on the north end of the greenway from Upton Road north to the Dean Creek frontage road at Seven Oaks (Blackwell Road) interchange at Exit 35 on Interstate 5 in Central Point, said Jenna Stanke, Jackson County special projects manager.

The $940,000 project, funded by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation and matching funds from the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation, will not be contiguous to the existing greenway. In fact, the segment will create a 1.5-mile gap in the greenway where it terminates at Pine Street by the Jackson County Fairgrounds & Expo Park south of Upton, Stanke said.

"It allows you to get from one point to another without taking a roundabout route on the highway so it's useful even as a fragment," said Lee Mills, president of the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation.

Cyclists and pedestrians traveling north or south between north of Central Point and the end of the greenway now have to cross overpasses at Interstate 5 twice, or travel on Kirtland or Table Rock roads, Stanke said. The new segment will save commuters a mile to several miles, depending on which route they took, she said.

When the new segment opens in the fall, cyclists and pedestrians will be able to reach it from the dead end at the frontage road, she said.

An equestrian trail at Upton has been closed since workers from Rogue River-based Timber Mountain Construction Inc. began building the new greenway addition about two weeks ago, she said.

Workers are currently clearing and grubbing the land in preparation for construction.

The project also includes paving small parking lots at the dead end of the frontage road, where the new greenway segment terminates, and at Upton and Peninger roads.

Work is expected to be completed in the fall, Stanke said.

The segment between Upton and the Dean Creek frontage road comes first because at the time the county applied for the ODOT grant a few years ago, it had not obtained right of way for the greenway between Pine and Upton through the fairgrounds.

Last fall, the county obtained the last piece of property it needed to make the greenway contiguous, a small tract by the fairgrounds owned by the Naumes family, which owns the Medford-based fruit company, Naumes Inc. The Naumes family donated the property.

"If we had waited (for the greenway to be contiguous) we wouldn't have been able to take advantage of this (ODOT) funding," Mills said.

The county does not yet have funding to complete that missing link through the fairgrounds and will apply for another ODOT grant in order to do so.

Meanwhile, the county continues discussions with fairgrounds officials about the exact route the greenway will take through the fairgrounds.

The greenway includes about 18 miles of paved pathway for bikes, joggers and walkers between Oak Street in Ashland north to Pine Street in Central Point.

It's unclear how much traffic frequents the greenway, but county officials will soon begin to develop a system to count that, Stanke said.

Paris Achen is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.