Improved Britt venue promises to be more open to all

$1 million renovation has expanded facilities, especially for disabled
The Britt Festival opens for the season today, and concertgoers will notice many improvements, including new lights for the pathway up from Highway 238. Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

JACKSONVILLE — Whether they're walking to a performance or arriving by vehicle, Britt patrons will be greeted by a new entry that heralds other major changes when they arrive for today's season-opening concert by The Fray.

Britt Music Festival has spent nearly $1 million on grounds and parking improvements, while the city spent a similar amount of federal grant money to upgrade the First Street approach.

"We are putting on the last-minute finishing touches right now," Britt Executive Director Donna Briggs said Wednesday. "These "¦ will be the most extensive improvements since 1987."

Among the improvements on festival grounds are:

  • A new performance garden area designed to host smaller acts, with seating for about 150.
  • A new grand entryway that is ADA compliant. More than 9,000 square feet of ADA pathways were added throughout the venue.
  • A restroom was doubled in size near the entry, with more stalls for women.
  • A new concession building near the performance garden. There will be cafe seating for 100, in addition to two new terraces where people can bring blankets to enjoy listening and picnicking.
  • Creation of eight ADA parking spaces immediately across from the main entrance, with parking for three band buses on the northern portions of the same lot. The new parking won't be ready until the second show on June 21. With the new arrangement, band buses will no longer park along First Street, which forced visitors into the roadway.
  • Electrical capacity has been doubled. Limited electrical supply occasionally caused problems in the past, said Briggs.
  • New irrigation systems.

While some trees were removed for the work, two have been planted for each one removed. Counting in-kind donations, the total outlay was right at $1 million, said Briggs. Three years of grant writing produced $600,000, all from Northwest-based foundations. Grants included $200,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, $100,000 from the Ford Family Foundation and $50,000 from the Paul Allen Foundation.

"A lot of community members have purchased pavers," said Briggs. "We kept chipping away at it, and it all added up."

Ausland Construction was general contractor for the work. The festival is on land leased from Jackson County.

"It's a huge investment in the community of Jacksonville," said Briggs. "I think it will open up a whole variety of opportunities to bring more folks into the community."

A federal transportation enhancement grant, administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation, provided 960 feet of six-foot-wide gravel sidewalks from Oregon Street along Main Street, then up First Street to the entrance. There's also new street lighting.

Total cost of the work, which included storm drains, came to $1,055,000, with the city covering 10 percent of the cost.

Upgrades also occurred in the city-owned Britt Garden area adjacent to the festival. A new restroom will replace portable toilets. Jacksonville Boosters Club has completed installation of new sidewalks and planted new shrubbery in the area over the last two years.

Installation of new lighting on the pathway from Highway 238 through the garden also has been completed.

Jacksonville Boosters Club, Britt and others provided funds, while city crews did the installation. Total expense for the light upgrades was about $38,000, said City Administrator Jeff Alvis.

"We are at the point now where we can sit back and enjoy it," said Alvis. "I can see some weddings in there. It's a beautiful area. Probably people will listen to the Britt concerts."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at

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