Old AHS gym recycled in Jacksonville

The old Ashland High School gymnasium will be resurrected on agriculture land just east of Jacksonville for produce storage and possibly a custom-crush winemaking operation.

Businessmen Alan DeBoer and Richard Doyle have cleared ground and installed a gravel pad for the 10,000-square-foot structure on their 50-acre parcel, which already supports a vineyard, hay and cattle along South Stage Road.

"The building would initially go up just for storage," DeBoer said. "We are hoping to expand to a grape-crushing facility. We'll sublease the facility. We wouldn't have any interest in running it."

DeBoer became interested in recycling the gym when he learned it was scheduled for demolition as part of an 18-month, $13.4 million reconstruction project to improve athletic and music buildings at the high school. The new gym and other renovations are scheduled to be completed in December.

"It was very important to Mr. DeBoer that we recycle and salvage as much of the building as possible," said Brad Bennington, whose firm handled the work.

"We sought out partners that were willing to incorporate the products in buildings."

A hardwood floor, bleachers, lights and a sprinkler system were recycled for use elsewhere. The steel frame, siding and roofing were retained for DeBoer and Doyle's storage building.

"That's one of the huge benefits of a pre-engineered steel building," said Bennington. "It's just as good as when it was put up 20 years ago."

Bennington accomplished the recycling work in 30 days in July to dovetail with timelines of Adroit Construction, which is handling the school projects. Only a few large Dumpsters of unusable material went in landfills, he said.

Quail Run Vineyards planted pinot noir grapes last spring on 12 of 20 acres it leased in the southeast part of the property. The company will plant the other 8 acres next spring.

"It's a great site, particularly for what we are growing," said Michael Moore, Quail Run operations manager. "Most pinot is grown up north, where they often have issues with ripening, so we are able to get really good, ripe fruit that's used in Northern Oregon and Willamette Valley blends."

Quail Run has had preliminary discussions about a crush plant at the site, but nothing has been finalized, Moore said.

The site's uses are limited by its location, according to DeBoer.

"It's really hard to farm because it's surrounded on three sides by the city," DeBoer said. "There's drainage issues. The land is really not viable for agriculture. It leaves the property owner in a bad position if you are using pesticides."

Inclusion of about a third of the acreage into the city's urban-growth boundary was sought during Regional Problem Solving, an initiative by the county and seven Rogue Valley cities to determine growth areas and preserve agricultural land. Jacksonville withdrew from the process in April.

Ultimately DeBoer would like to see some of the land annexed by the town to allow for home building. He said the road constructed off South Stage Road to the building site has been shown on earlier Jacksonville plans as an additional route to the northeast corner of the town.

The area's first winery devoted exclusively to custom crushing, Pallet Wine Co., opened in September in an old warehouse on North Fir Street in Medford. Other area wineries and vineyards also offer custom-crush services.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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