Low on flow

Two fountains in highly visible locations in Ashland no longer hold water, while a third still has water but is in need of numerous repairs.

A fountain in front of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Black Swan Theatre and Ashland Chamber of Commerce along Main Street has been broken for at least three years and no longer holds water.

City officials are eyeing the fountain as they consider a range of actions to spruce up Ashland's downtown.

Installed after 1988, the fountain sits on city-owned land that is leased to OSF, according to city documents.

Over the years, Ashland Parks and Recreation Department workers have tried to fix the fountain with sealers, but it keeps leaking, Parks Director Don Robertson said.

Parks Superintendent Bruce Dickens has suggested removing the fountain's basin so it no longer has a pool. Water could flow down onto a ground-level bed of gravel, then into an underground tank, where it would be pumped back up above ground to begin its journey anew.

Such a recirculating pond-free waterfall could address some of the maintenance and aesthetic issues that have plagued the Black Swan fountain.

"It could be a better way to go than a pond that collects cigarette butts and trash," Dickens said.

Some people have suggested turning the Black Swan fountain's basin into a planter, Robertson said.

The city government hasn't developed cost estimates for refurbishing the fountain.

The other fountain that lacks water sits in front of the library on Main Street.

The Michelson-Chapman Memorial Fountain was installed in 1929 and originally held treated municipal water plus lithium-laced mineral water, according to city records.

Ashland had hoped to become a mineral springs resort town, but moves to promote "lithia water" were not as successful as early townspeople had hoped.

It's not clear when the water features were removed from the Michelson-Chapman fountain, which today is in good repair. The only remaining clue that it ever held water is an inscription on the base that states it is a fountain.

The fountain's base was made of Oregon granite, while a female figure atop the base was carved from Italian marble. Back in 1929, the fountain cost $3,826 — a substantial sum in those days, according to city documents.

At another site in Ashland, the Perozzi Fountain in Lithia Park across Winburn Way from the Butler Bandshell needs numerous repairs, according to parks department staff.

Stucco is peeling off, the area under the fountain's stairs is eroding and the fountain's basin needs repairs, among other problems, Robertson said.

"There are a half-dozen things that need to be fixed. Every time we investigate things that are wrong with the fountain, the costs ratchet up," he said. "We will work with contractors to nail down a price."

The parks department has a long list of deferred maintenance projects throughout the parks system, Robertson said.

In 2008, the city completed a two-year repair effort to restore drinking water fountains on the downtown Plaza that gurgle with lithia water.

The water has a bad taste, but the lithium it contains purportedly can induce mental tranquility.

The 1927 lithia water drinking fountains on the Plaza had suffered from the corrosive effects of mineral water, vandalism and a 1950s-era repair job that used ill-fitting pieces.

The repair job cost almost $40,000 and included extensive historical research and custom-made pieces, the Daily Tidings reported in 2008.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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