Bear Creek Restoration Initiative

Bear Creek is a tributary of the Rogue River located in southwestern Oregon.
Despite the watershed being heavily urbanized, Bear Creek supports runs of Salmon and Steelhead, including the threatened Coho Salmon.
Bear Creek enters the Rogue River near the Table Rocks.
A 20 mile paved path, the Bear Creek Greenway, connects the communities from Ashland to Central Point.

Formation of the Initiative

Riparian restoration along Bear Creek and its tributaries is not new has been ongoing for several decades. In early 2019, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments convened a forum of interested organizations focused on restoring the Bear Creek riparian corridor as a unit by identifying a list of riparian restoration projects along Bear Creek and its tributaries. Through those discussions, the need for a meaningful dialogue to describe appropriate restoration actions along an urbanized stream became obvious across multiple sectors. We had to find common ground that provided a balance between a truly “wild” riparian area with abundant native vegetation and a “managed” riparian area that provides the wild components but accommodates public safety concerns such as fire and fuel reduction along with social concerns including the unsheltered population living along the Creek. The Bear Creek Restoration Initiative (BCRI) is a renewed effort that takes traditional restoration perspectives and adds a social and public safety component to the mix to address the issues facing Bear Creek.

Working Group Members

Working Group Partners

City of Ashland
City of Central Point
City of Phoenix
City of Talent
City of Medford
City of Medford Police Department, Livability Team
Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians
Jackson County Continuum of Care
Jackson County Fire Districts
Jackson County Parks
Jackson County Vector Control
Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District
Lomakatsi Restoration Project
Oregon Department of Transportation
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Department of Forestry
Oregon Stewardship
Rogue Basin Partnership
Rogue Fly Fishers
Rogue Retreat
Rogue River Keeper
Rogue River Watershed Council
Rogue Valley Audubon
Rogue Valley Council of Governments
The Freshwater Trust

List of Prioritized Riparian Restoration Projects

List of Prioritized Riparian Restoration Projects: This list of prioritized projects was developed during Bear Creek Restoration Initiative sessions and one-on-one discussions outside of the sessions using these factors:

  • Work is ongoing, and a partnership is in place.
  • Work is planned and there is opportunity for a partnership, especially with non-traditional partners (such as ODF, local fire districts, etc).
  • Planned work is part of an existing master plan.
  • Work is in an area that addresses restoration needs and public safety concerns (fuels reduction needs, illegal activities, etc)

1.  Ashland Pond area

    • Area size: 45 acres composed of riparian corridor of lower reach of Ashland Creek and approximately 0.5 miles of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile (0.5 on Ashland Creek, 0.5 miles on Bear Creek)
    • Partners: City of Ashland, Talent Irrigation District, TFT and Lomakatsi.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, poison hemlock), where needed.
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs, where needed.
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years.
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement (screen Ashland Pond diversion) and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other:  Some work is being done here by TFT and Lomakatsi.   In addition, the City of Ashland, as part of its new water quality trading program, must find at least 24 acres of riparian vegetation within the Bear Creek watershed to restore.  The objective of this water quality trading program is to “grow shade to cool the stream”.

2.  Phoenix area (Blue Heron Park/Anderson Creek confluence to Coleman Creek)

    • Area size: 19 acres, composed of riparian corridor of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1.5 miles along Bear Creek
    • Partners: City of Phoenix, Jackson County, Jackson County Fire District 5, Jackson County Social Services, ODFW, RRWC, RVCOG, RVSS.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate $150,000 for phase 1, $170,000 for phase 2.
    • Phases:  This project includes 1.3 acres of wetland enhancement within Blue Heron Park.  Planned to be a multi-year project.
    • Benefits: Enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality (stormwater treatment), reduced fire risk. Removal of public safety hazards and infrastructure
    • Other:   Coleman Creek culvert passage at Houston Road and canal crossing. In addition, the City of Ashland, as part of its new water quality trading program, must find at least 24 acres of riparian vegetation within the Bear Creek watershed to restore.  The objective of this water quality trading program is to “grow shade to cool the stream”.

3.  Peninger Fire area below Pine Street in Central Point to Expo Center

    • Area size: 45 acres, composed of riparian corridor Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 0.75 mile on Bear Creek
    • Partners: Jackson County, Jackson County Fire District 3, JSWCD, City of Central Point, ODOT, ODF, Lomakatsi and RVCOG.
    • Tasks:
      • Control of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock, puncture vine, Japanese knotweed)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs (approximately 7 acres).
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($300,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other:  This project was in response to the July 2018 Peninger Fire that burned approximately 100 acres.  The fire started in July 2018 on the west side of Bear Creek and burned approximately 15 acres of ODOT managed land immediately downstream of the Pine Street Bridge.  The fire removed several acres of thick blackberry.  Actions – Phase 1 involved erosion and invasive plant control measures (fall of 2018) and seeding with native grass and forbs within the 15-acre ODOT managed area.  Phase 2 (fall of 2019, winter of 2020) includes the planting of native trees and shrubs with pollinator plants on east and west side of Bear Creek within the ODOT managed area.  JSWCD has provided $30,000, City of Central Point has provided $25,000, ODOT has provided $25,000 of staff and equipment time.  This area is being used to as an outdoor laboratory for local elementary and middle schools in the area.  Through December 2019 more than 500 local elementary school students have taken part in these sessions.

4.  Wagner Creek confluence

    • Area size: 12 acres. Composed of riparian corridor along Bear Creek and lower Wagner Creek to west Valley View Road.
    • Partners:  RRWC, City of Talent, Jackson County, JSWCD, several private landowners
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($200,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement (sewer line obstacle to juvenile steelhead) and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other: Manure storage facility, irrigation conversion, exclusion fencing, two diversion structures, plant irrigation and stewardship

5.  Neil Creek/Walker Creek confluence

    • Area size: 25 acres, composed of riparian corridor.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile.
    • Partners: City of Ashland, Talent Irrigation District, TFT, JSWCD and Lomakatsi.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement (Tolman and Clayton barriers) and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other:  Some work is being done here by TFT and Lomakatsi.  In addition, the City of Ashland, as part of its new water quality trading program, must find at least 24 acres of riparian vegetation within the Bear Creek watershed to restore.  The objective of this water quality trading program is to “grow shade to cool the stream”.

6.  Lower Lone Pine Creek and Bear Creek Pine Street Bridge in Central Point

    • Area size: 60 acres, composed of riparian corridor of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile on Bear Creek
    • Partners: City of Central Point, City of Medford, Jackson County, Knife River, TFT and Lomakatsi.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other:  This area is immediately upstream of the Peninger Fire area and downstream of existing projects by TFT and LOMAKATSI on Lone Pine Creek.  ODFW recommends big-leaf maple be included in the plant list for this area (ODFW, personal communication August 15, 2019).

7.  Upton Road to Dean Creek.

    • Area size: 25 acres, composed of riparian corridor of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile on Bear Creek
    • Partners: Jackson County, JSWCD, Jackson County Fire District 3.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.

8.  Confluence of Wrights Creek

    • Area size: 18 acres, composed of riparian corridor of lower reach of Wrights Creek and approximately .5 miles of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile (0.5 on Wrights Creek, 0.5 miles on Bear Creek)
    • Partners: JSWCD, Talent Irrigation District, TFT and Lomakatsi.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.

9.  Confluence of Jackson Creek

    • Area size: 15 acres, composed of riparian corridor of lower reach of Jackson Creek and approximately 0.5 miles of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile (0.5 on Jackson Creek, 0.5 miles on Bear Creek)
    • Partners: Jackson County, JSWCD, TFT and Lomakatsi.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other:  The Freshwater Trust is discussing possible restoration actions near the mouth of Bear Creek, approximately 2 miles downstream.  These actions could provide an opportunity to include riparian and instream habitat improvements throughout this stream reach.

10.  Highway 62 downstream to I-5 crossing in north Medford

    • Area size: 60 acres, composed of riparian corridor along approximately 0.5 miles of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 0.5 miles on Bear Creek
    • Partners: City of Medford, ODOT, Crater Lake Ford, Medford Railroad Park and Lomakatsi.
    • Tasks:
      • Initial removal of invasive plants (Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock)
      • Supplemental planting with native trees and shrubs
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($250,000)
    • Phases:  This riparian project could be coupled with fish passage improvement and instream habitat work.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.

These projects areas have existing native vegetation but need to have an initial removal of blackberries and other invasive plants as a first task, then supplemental planting with native species to increase species diversity or density where appropriate.  They then need long-term maintenance (a minimum of five years, preferable longer).  Several of these areas contain other restoration needs, such as flow augmentation, fish passage improvement, and/or habitat enhancement.  Opportunities to address multiple needs should be given priority.

There are several areas that need continued maintenance.  These areas were “restored” by previous efforts but are in need of long-term maintenance.

  • Bear Creek Park/confluence of Lazy Creek
    • Area size: 12 acres, composed of riparian corridor of lower reach of Lazy Creek and approximately 0.3 miles of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 0.4 mile (0.1 on Lazy Creek, 0.3 miles on Bear Creek)
    • Partners: City of Medford, Oregon Stewardship.
    • Tasks:
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($20,000 over 5 years)
    • Phases:  This riparian project needs continued vegetation management as described in the Plan.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
  • Hawthorne Park to Highway 62 along Bear Creek in north Medford.
    • Area size: 45 acres, composed of riparian corridor along approximately 1 miles of Bear Creek.
    • Length of stream reach: 1 mile on Bear Creek.
    • Partners: City of Medford, Oregon Department of Transportation, JSWCD.
    • Tasks:
      • Control of invasive plants for 5 years
    • Cost estimate ($20,000 over 5 years)
    • Phases:  This riparian project needs continued vegetation management as described in the Plan.
    • Benefits: enhanced riparian and wetland habitat, improved water quality, reduced fire risk.
    • Other:  The City of Medford and JSWCD provided funding in 2014 and 2015 to remove blackberries and other invasive plants from the site and to plant native trees and shrubs to supplement the existing native vegetation.  ODOT provided match in the form of crew time and equipment.  This contribution allowed the original project area to be larger than planned (45 acres vs the original 15 acres).  ODOT continues to perform mowing of a portion of the area and has added more trees on the east side of the Greenway in subsequent years.

Some of these areas and issues are complex; master plans may be a logical first step to encompass opportunities.

Products

Reports and Documents

Bear Creek Restoration Initiative Final Report (2020)