New residents make Ashland home

Many people dream of moving to Ashland, but once they arrive, how does the town measure up to their expectations?

Lynn and Steve Stolzer are finding that Ashland offers more than they ever expected.

The couple, originally from Florida, stopped in Ashland on a cross-country tour of locations listed in the book "1,000 Places to See Before You Die."

"We fell in love. Ashland had everything culturally that a big city offers with the warmth of a small town," Lynn Stolzer said.

They returned again on a five-day visit to check out local hospitals, housing prices and activities, becoming more and more convinced that they wanted to move here. A year later, they found and bought a house and have now been in town for two months.

Lynn Stolzer said they expected that Ashland would have cultural activities for tourists, but they were surprised that there were so many things for residents to do.

Steve Stolzer enjoys biking and has joined a senior softball league, while Lynn Stolzer became an Ashland Family YMCA member, joined a book club, volunteered to help the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and plans to become involved with the American Association of University Women and Planned Parenthood.

"We're doing a lot," she said. "We're making it our home."

Lynn Stolzer said the one downside has been that she has had to travel outside the area to find home decor that fits her taste.

Fellow East Coast residents Helen and Joe Reinhold had friends who had moved to Ashland and raved about the town, so they came out for a visit.

Helen Reinhold, who hails from Australia, said she and her husband hiked up Grizzly Peak where they ran into a couple from Australia. The couple said they had researched the entire United States and concluded that Ashland was the best place to live.

The Reinholds sold their home in the Hamptons and moved to Ashland two years ago.

"We just had heard glowing reports. Once we moved here, we found everything and more that people said.

"The theater is wonderful. It's world-class theater," said Helen Reinhold, who volunteers for OSF's Tudor Guild and belongs to a French group.

They live next to Oak Knoll Public Golf Course and have become avid golfers. Joe Reinhold also enjoys rowing on Emigrant Lake. Helen Reinhold said the people of Ashland are friendly.

"It seems like almost everybody has moved here from somewhere else," she said. "It's easy to get to know people. Just ask, 'Where did you come from?'"

Helen Reinhold said the downtown shops are excellent and unique, especially the clothing stores and specialty shops like Travel Essentials. She enjoys the annual Festival of Light, when the downtown is lit up by thousands of holiday lights.

"The only thing I wish there was is a good butcher," she said, adding that an upscale thrift shop to benefit a charity would also be a good addition since so many newcomers are downsizing.

Although she is a relative newcomer, Helen Reinhold said she hopes Ashland can keep its unique character.

She said many long-term residents have told her it has already changed for the worse.

She acknowledged that rave reviews by new residents probably increase pressure on Ashland. During a two-month span in their first year living here, they played host to 26 visitors.

Suzanne McBride and her husband traveled from Delaware to help their daughter relocate to Portland. On a side trip to Ashland, their recreational vehicle broke down.

"We were here for three days whitewater rafting, jet boating and eating great meals in restaurants," she said.

They moved to Medford last year, eventually found the right home in Ashland and came here five months ago.

Before relocating, they knew Ashland offered plentiful outdoor activities, including downhill and cross-country skiing, sailing and hiking.

"There's actually a whole lot more to do than I ever visualized," Suzanne McBride said.

She said the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (formerly Southern Oregon Learning In Retirement) at Southern Oregon University offers a variety of interesting courses. She plays in a bridge group that grew out of an institute bridge class.

The mild Rogue Valley climate, with snow available for winter sports in the mountains, beats the humid east coast climate that makes summers hot and sweaty and winters cold and shivery, Suzanne McBride said.

One downside is leaving behind friends to move to the West Coast, she said.

"I miss the friendships I built up over many years. I'm kind of a quiet person and less assertive. It's taking a while to find a best friend," she said.

For Constance Stallings, moving to Ashland required a leap of faith. She had visited the town in October of 2006 on an elderhostel trip and found the streets and trees &

decked out in their fall foliage &

to be beautiful. With the help of an Oregon Shakespeare Festival employee and the elderhostel coordinator, she rented a house sight unseen and moved to Ashland five months ago.

Her move came just as her New York City apartment was about to be sold as a condominium for $425,000.

Stallings said she is able to rent a three-bedroom house here for half the price of renting her old one-bedroom apartment.

She said long-term residents seem friendly to newcomers, although she has heard complaints about new residents &

especially from the San Francisco Bay area &

driving up the price of homes beyond the reach of locals.

Like many other newcomers, Stallings is taking classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

One big disappointment was the shuttered Ashland Public Library. Like other libraries in the Jackson County Library System, Ashland's branch was closed in the spring due to a lack of funding, but will reopen later this fall.

"Every dinky town in the United States has a library," Stallings said. "It seems so wrong, especially for a town with so many educated people."

On a positive note, she said she discovered the Media Exchange, which accepts donated materials and gives out books and recordings.

The difference between New York City and Ashland is perhaps most apparent when she rides the bus.

"People here are extraordinarily friendly. I'm likely to talk to someone or someone will strike up a conversation. In New York, you just don't talk to people. Here, people go out of their way to make you feel welcome," Stallings said.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit .

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