The Trail Route and History
The idea for creating a trail system linking Jacksonville and Ashland was first launched at a meeting of the Applegate Neighborhood Network in late 2008. The Siskiyou Upland Trail Association, or SUTA was formed to accomplish this mission. Our interest stemmed from a desire to develop and insure protection of prime recreational opportunities for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, running, and other “muscle-powered” activities in our region. Of particular interest was having a great trail system within an easy drive of the population centers in the Rogue Valley. Linking the wonderful existing trail systems in Ashland and Jacksonville via the ridgeline between them seems a natural route, providing the perfect landscape and gorgeous views. Trails along the scenic ridgeline between Wagner Butte and Anderson Butte have long been used by hikers, equestrians and bicyclists. In fact, these trails were already in use in the 1920s as a link between the fire lookout towers on Wagner and Anderson Buttes. Most of our trail system will fall on public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), although near Wagner Butte the trail will cross into U.S. Forest Service Land. A few small sections of the trail will need to cross private property.
In addition to following the ridgelines between Ashland and Jacksonville, at Anderson Butte our proposed trail route comes very close to the historic Sterling Mine Ditch Trail. We are incorporating it in our trail system because this 26-mile-long trail is already restricted to non-motorized use, and connecting it to the Ashland-Jacksonville trail system would create a fabulous loop around a large section of Anderson Butte. Over time, other trails may be added to create trail loops, especially near areas with easy public access.
Our affectionate name for our future trail between Jacksonville and Ashland is the Jack-Ash Trail, brilliantly coined by Larry Smith of the Jacksonville Woodland Trails Association.
The Benefits of SUTA’s Trails
Beyond the wonderful recreational opportunities provided by SUTA’s planned community trail system, it is important to recognize the economic values associated with creating and maintaining a trail system. For starters, Southern Oregon has focused on developing tourism to take advantage of its natural and cultural resources such as the Rogue River, Crater Lake, and the Britt and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals. Having a well-designed, easily accessed trail system that offers a taste of Southern Oregon’s beautiful open spaces in close proximity to its urban areas adds yet another draw for visitors to our region. Trail systems create economic value to our region as visitors and local residents come to stay in local lodging, eat at our restaurants, buy supplies for a picnic, or rent a bike. Second, numerous studies on the economic benefits associated with trails show that real estate values for homes adjacent to or near a trail system tend to increase. A 2002 survey of homebuyers conducted by the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders showed that the existence of trails ranked second among the 18 most important attributes of a community. Studies of trail systems in Washington state and Ohio indicated that properties adjacent to their trails sold faster and for 5-9% more than similar properties not located near the trails. Outdoor activities are a major draw for both residents and visitors and the SUTA trail system will expand this draw.
Blazing the Trail – Our Plan
Our current plan is to try to use existing trails or roads whenever possible in order to minimize the challenges and cost of creating a trail system. In our preliminary efforts to pinpoint the trail route, we will rely on a variety of resources to make sure our trails avoid damaging any sensitive resources, such as fragile steep slopes, rare plants, or key wildlife habitat. Once we have developed a tentative route we will be working with BLM and the community to gain approval for a final trail route. At a few points along the trail we will need to create new trail sections either on BLM or privately owned lands.
We are working with both the Ashland Woodlands and Trails Association and the Jacksonville Woodland Trails Association to coordinate where the Jack-Ash trail will link with theirs. On the Ashland end of the trail, there is an existing trail that climbs up and over Wagner Butte and ends on the forest service road slightly south of Wagner Gap. At present, this is probably where our trail system will connect with the Ashland system. At the other end there are a number of options for linking to the Jacksonville trail system. Because much of the land immediately around Jacksonville is privately owned, we will need to work with land owners to gain permission for a trail across their land. The outcome of this process will determine the final Jack-Ash trail route into Jacksonville. The trail map shown on this website is one possible option for the route.
In 2010 SUTA plans to continue identifying the potential trail route and working in conjunction with BLM and private land owners to move forward to development the trail. We have focused much of our efforts in the past six months on re-opening the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail. As of March 15, 2010, SUTA volunteers have successfully beaten back the poison oak and trimmed shrubs and tree branches to make the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail passable from Bear Gulch to the end at Little Applegate trailhead; additional work has been done on other sections where we received permission from BLM or private land owners to clear the trail. BLM has agreed to allocate some of its Stimulus funding for heavy trail maintenance of the Sterling Mine Ditch trail during 2010. SUTA has also applied for other funding for trail work on the Sterling Mine Ditch trail. Over time we will continue to apply for grants to maintain this fabulous trail resource for community use. As the Jack-Ash trail route gains approval, similar efforts will be taken to develop and maintain these trails. This is a large trail system and continued community involvement will be needed over the years to keep these trails open for all to enjoy. We look forward to this, as it is a delightful excuse to be outside in our beautiful Southern Oregon countryside, to get some exercise, and to meet new friends.
This trail project will take a number of years to gain formal approval. Fortunately, because large sections of the future trail system are on public lands and exist as currently used BLM roads or old trails, the public can begin to enjoy many sections of these trails before we gain official recognition. As we zero in on the possible routes for our trail we will be updating our maps and indicating where it is possible to hike, ride, and bicycle so that we all can begin to enjoy the future Jack-Ash trail system. While some of the areas requiring new trails will take longer for approval and trail development, we encourage everyone to begin to use those portions that are open to the public now. Thank you for your interest. We look forward to meeting you out on the trail system, whether you are on a short stroll, a long-distance run, a bike, or a horse!