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Lithia Park gazebo will be reopened

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department is inviting the public to a ceremony celebrating the restoration of two century-old structures in Lithia Park.

The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. Monday at the Atkinson Memorial Bridge, which crosses Ashland Creek near the children's playground in the park.

Built in 1912, the bridge had been suffering from crumbling concrete but was recently repaired.

The Enders Memorial Shelter gazebo, which was built in 1916, suffered from a host of problems — including rotting pillars, a sinking roof and an uneven, broken concrete floor — before its recent restoration.

The shelter was in such bad shape that parks officials considered demolishing it.

The Ashland Parks Commission decided to restore it instead. Like Lithia Park itself, the shelter is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Atkinson Memorial Bridge was named after W.H Atkinson, a native of England who came to Ashland in 1874.

A prominent businessman, Atkinson was involved with the Ashland Flour Mill, the Ashland Woolen Manufacturing Co. and the Bank of Ashland.

Atkinson's widow paid $800 for the construction of the memorial bridge after his death. The bridge withstood a massive flood in 1997 that heavily damaged Lithia Park and downtown Plaza businesses.

Jim Oleson, a contractor specializing in historic preservation, assisted with the recent bridge repairs, parks officials said.

The Enders Memorial Shelter, located near the Butler Bandshell, is named after the Enders family, early residents of Ashland who were involved with the construction of the downtown Elks Building and Ashland Springs Hotel, according to information compiled by architect Steve Ennis, who served as the project manager for the shelter restoration.

Contractor Wes Norton of Roxy Ann Rock and architect Jerome White of Kistler + Small + White Architects also worked on the project.

A turnabout near the Enders Memorial Shelter was once the formal entrance to Lithia Park. The Enders Memorial Shelter is the last remaining gazebo out of three gazebos that once surrounded the turnabout.

"We don't know what happened to the other shelters. (The Enders shelter) is 100 years old and it has withstood two or three major floods," Dickens said.

He said he hopes that someone attending Monday's ceremony will know what became of the other gazebos.

Lithia water, which is laced with the mineral lithium, was piped to the Enders Memorial Shelter in the early 1900s from a spring near Emigrant Creek during an era when Ashland tried to market itself as a world-class mineral springs destination.

The shelter has a fountain for lithia water as well as for regular water, while a pipe spouts lithia water into Ashland Creek to relieve pressure from the constantly running mineral water, said Parks Superintendent Bruce Dickens. The water is not harmful to the creek or fish, Dickens said.

The restoration project included replacing rotting pillars, the broken concrete floor, part of the roof and water fountains and lines. Cedar shake shingles were used to top the roof to be historically accurate, but the shingles were treated with fire retardant, Dickens said.

Workers took special care not to allow debris to fall into nearby Ashland Creek. They built a chute to funnel material into the shelter's interior, Dickens said.

Workers discovered a network of pipes beneath the shelter, including a clay pipe, as well as voids where floods and storms had washed ground away, Dickens said.

Representatives from the Ashland Chamber of Commerce will be on hand during the ceremony celebrating the two restoration projects. Invitations have also been sent to numerous groups and individuals.

"We're excited to co-host this ceremony and demonstrate to the community how much we value the historic features in our cherished Lithia Park," said Katharine Flanagan of the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.

Refreshments will be served at the ceremony.

Dickens said both restoration projects came in under budget.

The bridge repairs cost $49,995 while the Enders Memorial Shelter restoration cost $154,146.

The original estimate for the bridge repairs was $50,000 while the shelter restoration cost was estimated at $192,000, he said.

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

The Enders Memorial Shelter gazebo (above) is nestled near the Ashland Creek in Lithia Park. The gazebo, which was built in 1916 (left, in photo from the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department), suffered from a host of problems including rotting pillars, a sinking roof and an uneven, broken concrete floor before its recent restoration. - Julia Moore