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A Land Use Plan for Bear Creek Valley, at Long Last

March 27, 2012

Jackson County is trying to draw some clear lines against urban expansion in the Bear Creek Valley, which stretches between Medford and Ashland. Failure to do so will not result from lack of a land use planning effort.

We tend to think that land use planning is mostly about coloring in big maps with different shades; if you zone out development, people will not come. In fact, population growth (and the land development that goes with it) follow infrastructure.

In 1940 the fifth most populous county in Oregon was . . . Klamath. Surprised? Consider that the country had just spent the prior 70 years building out over 250,000 miles of railroad and the main line between California and Portland travelled through Klamath Falls. The original interstate highway plan ran the same course, but politically powerful Glenn Jackson had the route changed to his hometown of Medford. Jackson County is now the 6th largest in the state; Klamath has dropped to 15th.

In the 1990’s Jackson County started to work in earnest to get ahead of the population explosion wrought by I-5. Through a state-administered Regional Problem Solving process, the communities of Bear Creek Valley (including hitherto unknown cities of Jacksonville, Central Point, Phoenix, and Talent) sought to clarify and limit the areas that are to accommodate 50 years of future growth. Fifteen years and buckets of blood, sweat, and tears later, the process has borne the fruit with the designation of 8,529 acres of “urban reserves” located between Medford and Ashland.

Can natural resource uses of Bear Creek Valley, including its new wine industry, thrive into the future? Only time, and the quality of this land use plan, will tell.

For more information, please contact Ty Wyman.

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