1004141817 lithia park Bandshell Area overlay mig.jpg
A composite image created by MIG Inc. combines historic and current photos of Lithia Park, this one at the Butler Bandshell.

Planners head to Lithia Park drawing board with plenty of public input

Approximately mid-way through a year-and-a-half process to create a Master Plan to guide Lithia Park's course through its second century, planners have a hefty new batch of public input to weave into the plan’s fabric.

Lithia Park Master Plan Design Week, which included seven separate opportunities for the public to offer input and observe planners discuss options, wrapped up Friday morning with a committee meeting at the Community Development Building on Winburn Way across from the park. Laurie Matthews, project manager, said the committee received an abundance of feedback from the community during the planning week.

“We got a good pulse from the public last night for options to explore,” Matthews said.

Some of the topics discussed at the meeting included trail maintenance and improvement; relocating and repurposing the maintenance yard, park office and buildings; updating policies to possibly include alcohol consumption for events such as weddings; storm water drainage to improve the health of the creek; improving accessibility of the park for all and better traffic circulation.

Ashland Garden Club President Michael Dawkins expressed what he said is the community’s desire to reinstate more gardens around the park and to better interconnect existing gardens.

“I’ve had a 71-year love affair with the park,” Dawkins said.

Michael Black, director of Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission, said one idea is to work on the Japanese-styled garden, specifically with sensitivity to the culture.

He said what was discussed last week helped fill in a road map to follow.

“We have a trajectory for the next 100 years, but as architects, designers and planners … we’re looking at the next 20-50 years, and we can come back and look at it every five years or so,” Black said.

JoAnne Eggers, an Ashland resident for 45 years and previous parks commission member, said she agrees that the history of the park should be maintained, but it also needs to adapt to the future.

“In 100 years human beings will be similar to us in some way,” Eggers said. “There will still be people, there will still be trees, and I care about the integrity of that future.”

“We’re looking at having a draft master plan, or at least some preferred alternatives and locations ... (by) October or so,” said Melissa Erikson, a principle at MIG Inc, the Portland firm contracted to provide the master plan. “And then there will be some refinements to be completed by spring.”

The team will come back to Ashland in the fall for more meetings and reviews.

“It is a well-loved park with different areas that are special to everyone which makes the whole thing difficult to prioritize or restructure,” Erikson said. “But the main thing is that the park is changing continuously.”

She said there are many outside influences that need to be considered, such as the continuous aging of the landscape, the risk of fire and flood and the effect of climate change, to name a few.

Rick Landt, a park commissioner and longtime resident, led the meeting. He said all areas and ideas are important because this is a comprehensive plan not focusing on any single aspect, but rather exploring every possible option to improve and preserve the park.

“All areas are important, but of course the heart of the park is the Ashland Creek, and so anything we can do to help Ashland Creek is a win situation,” Landt said. “There are multiple uses that people make of the park and we want to make sure to support those uses. Perhaps there are some uses that aren’t of the value to the public they used to be and so those will be emphasized, as well as the parts that are important to the public will be emphasized.”

He reiterated that the plan is the community’s and all feedback is encouraged.

The Parks & Recreation Commission awarded a $230,000 contract to MIG last year, with work starting in November 2017. The “Master Plan Development and Refinement” phase will begin in late summer and continue through plan adoption by the APRC, anticipated in early 2019, according to the Parks & Rec website.

To view the data collected over Lithia Park Master Plan Design Week and to give feedback to APRC, visit ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=17543.

Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.

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