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Connector project will create a safe passage between Juniper Hills and Madras East Hills

TONY AHERN/MADRAS PIONEER
 - On Saturday, participants of the Bunny Bun Run move across Ashwood Road from Juniper Hills Park onto the East Madras Trails parking lot. The city of Madras recently obtained a $240,000 grant to construct a connector project between the recreation parks.

Cyclists, walkers and runners who enjoy the Juniper Hills Park and the Madras East Hills will soon be able to cross safely between the two trail systems.

"Now that we have the two amenities, they're starting to organize race events around them," says Jeff Hurd, the Madras Public Works director, "to where people are starting to cross between the two trail systems."

Ashwood Road, the road between the two trail systems, carries a lot of traffic. A landscaped meridian divides the two lanes.

President of the Madras Runners Club, Jamie Hurd, describes it as more of an obstacle course than a crossing. "I usually just run across traffic when I go in between the two, and I usually have my dog, and I would be pushing my running stroller in between. You just kinda hold your breath and then run really fast until you get to the next safe section."

Even though Jamie Hurd is married to the public works director, she hadn't heard about the proposed trail connection until this reporter called. "There are a lot of walkers that stay in Juniper Hills and don't venture out to Madras Hills," says Jamie Hurd, "because it's not as comfortable to go that way if you're not familiar with the trail system."

The design calls for a flat walkway across Ashwood Road, with what Jeff Hurd calls a pedestrian refuge between the lanes. "So the pedestrians can walk across and stay in the middle protected by the island on either side."

Lighting at the crosswalk will allow drivers to see pedestrians. Almost a thousand feet of paved path will connect the Juniper Hills Park trail to the Madras East Hills trail.

"I think this interconnected trail will be a wonderful addition," says Brennan Morrow, who has taken the lead in building the Madras East Hills trail system. "It will be a great way to increase access to both trail systems."

Morrow, the Madras representative of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, appreciates seeing this investment in the health of the community. "I think that's going to be a huge change in our culture into a more healthy and active community," says Morrow. "Madras is beginning to become sort of a beacon."

Dr. Leland "Bud" Beamer regularly puts on runs between both trail systems. "Both Juniper Hills Park and the East Hills trails provide a quality, scenic outdoor experience," says Beamer. "Connecting the two with a safe crossing and pathway will provide a variety of trails for those looking for more extensive activities as well as bathroom facilities and picnicking areas."

A grant for $240,000 from Oregon Community Paths, an Oregon Department of Transportation program, pays for most of the project. The City of Madras and Jefferson County will each pitch in $72,000.

The city expects to begin construction in the fall with plans to have the connection in action by next spring.

COURTESY OF CITY OF MADRAS - A new pedestrian pathway across Ashwood Road will connect Juniper Hills Park to the Madras East Hills trail system. The city won a $240,000 grant from Oregon Community Paths, a Department of Transportation program. The city hopes to have the path ready for use by next spring.


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