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A walk in the park — improved

There are lots of trees and walkways in Lithia Park but most people don’t know they’re connected by a trail system — or that there’s a colorful, new guidebook to the path and all 100 notable signs, trees and bushes on it, a self-guided trek you can do in an hour or so.

 “It’s a real relaxed stroll, one you can do at your own pace,” says Holly Deffenbaugh, who photographed and wrote the colorful book as the capstone project for her recent degree in English, with a concentration in technical professional writing.

 “A lot of people see the signs by trees and don’t realize there are 100 of them, all connected by trails, deeply educational and it’s a pretty pleasant way to spend the afternoon, with yourself or friends or visitors.”

 The 52-page book divides Lithia Park into seven sections — lower duck pond, playground, bandshell, upper duck pond, Japanese garden, Perozzi Fountain and Rose Garden. The first four areas take you upstream or south and the last two return you north to the parking area.

 The big difference from the old, 1993 booklet is that maps show each area and the location of the numbered signs. Also new is that every stop is illustrated with color pictures of the numbered plant, so there’s no guessing where it is. The book doesn't go into detail about the plant but leaves the on-site sign to do that. It also guides you in detail, telling you where to turn right or left.

The tour shows you many indigenous trees and bushes, but also exotic trees, many of which were planted in the park decades ago. Among these are the monkey puzzle tree, the peaceful Japanese garden, the orderly sycamore growve and some you likely haven’t heard of: smoke tree, Spanish fir, sunburst locust, Judas tree, saucer magnolia, plume cryptomeria and more.

 Some describe the Siskiyou Mountains, the urban/wildlife Interface, the Rose Garden, the Enders Memorial Shelter and Lithia Park itself.

 The year-long project was a fun job for Deffenbaugh, the daughter of an Ashland policeman, who recalls many happy memories of growing up playing in the park and splashing in the creek.

 To do the booklet, she walked the park many times, noting where once-identified plants were now wiped out by flooding, took pictures and sent her mom and boyfriend on the route to make sure it was all understandable and correct. It was fact-checked by park horticulturist Anne Thayer and designed by promotions coordinator Dorinda Cottle.

 “I learned a lot,” says Deffenbaugh. “In spring, everything was in bloom and so gorgeous and in fall, all the colors turned orange, a completely different experience. Using the book forces you to slow down and really take it in.”

 Lori Ainsworth, parks volunteer and event coordinator, designed the book and mentored Deffenbaugh. Jeff McFarland, city forestry manager, did the cover photography. It’s printed in-house.

 “I love the new guide,” says Ainsworth. “It’s inspired, an excellent job. We had this project in mind, then she proposed it.”

 Deffenbaugh, 30, is now seeking freelance projects as she sets up her own grant-writing and development business.

 The book is $5, available at the Parks-Rec main office on Winburn Way, the Plaza kiosk, North Mountain Park Nature Center and the Chamber of Commerce on Main at Pioneer.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.