'Don't shoot the resources!'

In a city-commissioned report, historian George Kramer offers his advice on how to preserve antique structures on the Ashland Gun Club property.

The report, submitted Wednesday to the city, can be summed up with three points: "Keep the resources dry, keep them clean and don't shoot at them," Kramer said.

"Collectively I think they tell an important story in Ashland's history, which is the development of Lithia water," he said. "To the extent we lose any of them we have a much more difficult time telling the story."

In July, the city asked Kramer & Company to create a management plan for the property, after it received a state grant for the work.

City officials, who are still reviewing the report, may decide to incorporate Kramer's advice into the terms of the Gun Club's lease.

The document, which identifies all of the historic elements on the property, could also be helpful if the city ever decides to try to list the site on the National Historic Register, Kramer said.

The city owns the 70-acre property on Emigrant Creek Road, but has rented it to the Gun Club since the '50s.

Before that, it was the site of important developments in Ashland's history, Kramer said.

In the early 1900s, the city bought the land, named it Lithia Springs, and began marketing the sulfur-smelling water located there. A pump house and similar structures were erected, but "Lithia water was never quite the economic engine the city hoped it would be," Kramer said.

"I think the effort to develop Lithia water and the lack of success they had with it — both of that is important to Ashland's history," he said.

"There's no other city in Southern Oregon that tried to bottle Lithia water."

After the Lithia water plans fizzled, the city began renting out the land to companies that mined the water for carbon dioxide, bottled it and sold it in the '30s and '40s.

Since then, the structures on the property have fallen into disrepair, Kramer said.

The pump house is the only building left standing. Several large concrete structures and foundations stand in tatters — the remains of the Lithia water development and CO2 plants. A wall alongside Emigrant Creek, which runs through the property, is in danger of collapsing. Old Lithia water wells dot the property.

The city still pumps Lithia water from the site to a handful of fountains in Ashland, including one in the plaza that Kramer recently helped renovate.

For years, local environmental activists have been concerned about the Gun Club's use of the property because they fear that lead from bullets strewn on the ground could leach into the soil and water.

Ashland's Public Works Department is doing an environmental analysis of the property, according to Bill Molnar, the city's community development director.

Kramer's report focused solely on the preservation of the site's historic features — and what the Gun Club can do to help.

"My hope is now that the Gun Club is aware of the fact that these are historic buildings, and not just old buildings on the property, that they will take a more active role in protecting them," he said.

In the report, the historian suggests that the club erect mounds of dirt, called berms, in front of important structures, so that if a shot goes astray, it won't nail a hundred-year-old building.

"It doesn't strike me as terribly difficult for the Gun Club to put a few berms in front of these resources," he said, "so that instead of shooting the resources on accident, they shoot a berm."

While he was working on the project, Kramer wrote a blog post titled "Don't Shoot the Resources!" which outlines the key points in his report. To read the post, log on to http://thepreserveoregonblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/dont-shoot-resources.html.

The historian also suggests putting a temporary roof on the pump house and shoring up the crumbling wall by the creek.

"None of these strategies should be very expensive to implement," he said. "For the cost of some very modest building materials, we can put something up that can protect them for the interim."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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