By Teresa Ristow
A 22-year-old Ashland man says he has been identified by the U.S. Forest Service as a victim of Jackson Dempsey, who was arrested in July for allegedly sabotaging mountain-biking trails in the Ashland watershed.
Jordan Daniels, a Southern Oregon University student and frequent mountain biker, was riding down an unauthorized trail in the Ashland watershed on a morning in late June or early July last year when he saw something strung across the trail about 100 feet ahead of him.
“I came around a blind corner, and 100 feet away there was something — I thought it was spider webs,” said Daniels, who began mountain biking in high school and has ridden trails in Ashland for the past four years.
Daniels said when he got within 20 feet, he realized the string was thicker than spiderwebs. But by then he was going too fast to avoid it.
Daniels plowed into a nylon cord strung several feet off the ground, striking it with his neck, he said. His body hit one tree, his bike another. A protective neck brace may have prevented serious injury to his body, but his bike frame was destroyed, he said.
He struck the tree head-first, suffering a minor neck injury and whiplash, as well as three fist-sized bruises on his leg.
Daniels said the cord was so strong that it didn’t break, but was loosened and may have untied from the impact.
Daniels said he didn’t seek medical help for his injuries or document them with a physician.
“I was upset about it, but I just brushed it off,” he said.
A few weeks later, he was contacted by a Forest Service officer who interviewed him about the accident and asked to see pictures of his injuries, Daniels said.
Daniels is now listed as a victim in the court records for charges pending against Dempsey, 57, of Ashland, a former psychiatrist with Jackson County who was arrested by the Forest Service on July 22. Dempsey is charged with fourth-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment.
Daniels said before the crash he hadn’t heard anything about mountain-biking trails being sabotaged, and he doesn’t think he had ever seen Dempsey on the trails.
A report from the Forest Service arresting officer said that Dempsey admitted to sabotaging trails in the Ashland watershed on at least five different days in June and July because he “did not like downhill mountain bikers.”
Dempsey admitted to laying nylon cord, nails and vegetation along several trails, the report said.
After his arrest, Dempsey pleaded not guilty to all four charges against him.
Originally scheduled to go to trial in September, Dempsey’s case has been postponed four times while he works on mediation with the state, according to court records.
A two-day trial is now scheduled to begin in Jackson County Circuit Court on May 1.
Daniels said he has continued to ride trails since his crash, but he is more cautious.
“It’s hard to know; there could always be something around the corner,” said Daniels. “It has made me more timid to ride the trails without anticipating an obstacle in the way that is going to severely hurt me. It saddens me that someone would want to hurt someone for riding his or her bike in the woods.”
Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.