The city of Eugene is moving ahead with plans to build a three-quarter-mile mixed-use gravel trail through city-owned forestland to expand the popular Ridgeline Trail system.

The latest trail addition will connect the Amazon Headwaters area to the Mount Baldy area.

Currently, hikers, bicyclists and joggers go between the Amazon and Baldy areas along the narrow shoulder of Dillard Road for about half a mile.

"Right now (the trail) is along the shoulder of the road. It's not a very safe or pleasant place to hike," said Philip Richardson, a landscape architect for Eugene.

The plans call for the new trail, which will be open to hikers and mountain bikers, to run roughly parallel to the road, but set approximately 500 to 700 feet to the west, down from the ridgeline that Dillard Road runs along.

The city has finished preliminary design and survey work and is preparing to solicit bids to construct the trail. The budget for the entire project is $160,000, although Richardson noted that it could change.

"We don't know until the bids come in what the real cost will be, but that was our initial assessment," Richardson said.

While the city isn't aware of any accidents involving hikers on Dillard Road, the stretch is well-trafficked.

The most recent traffic volume study -- conducted by the city in 2007 about 1.2 miles north of the proposed trail work -- counted approximately 2,400 trips per day. The speed limit changes greatly in the area -- going from 25 mph just north of the site to 45 mph farther south on Dillard.

Hikers or mountain bikers who want to access the new trail from the Mount Baldy area will have to cross Dillard Road just as it begins to descend into a series of switchbacks into Eugene.

Part of the trail will also cross over the headwaters of the east fork of Amazon Creek. That required a city water resource review. The review found that the trail could be constructed while meeting all conservation requirements by building an approximately 45-foot-long boardwalk to span the stream.

The city originally planned to install a bridge, but after further review decided to move the crossing upstream, reducing its size.

"At (that) point, only a boardwalk was needed," Richardson said. "Going with a boardwalk is going to save us some money and end up with a more stable trail in the long run."

The city in 2001 purchased the 54-acre parcel of land that the proposed trail will pass through. While the project has been on the docket since then, a lack of funds has kept the project from moving forward.

"Finding money to do things has been more and more difficult," Richardson said. "We had actually hoped to do this last year but we weren't able to do it, so we're getting to it this year."

The city last week mailed out a notice alerting area residents to the project.

If all goes according to plan, construction on the trail could begin as soon as Aug. 1. The work is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 15.

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