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49. North Mountain Park

North Mountain Park in Ashland is a 40-acre piece of nature in the midst of an urban area.

The park includes a nature center in a renovated 20th-century farmhouse and barn, a patchwork of demonstration gardens, including butterfly, reptile and amphibian, herb, heirloom and native plant gardens, as well as a “Bird Buffet” for bird watchers.

There are several acres of wildlife-friendly riparian woodlands and wetland habitats, and abundant open space and trails to explore.

Interpretive exhibits along the pathways explain water conservation practices and wildlife ecosystems. Free garden tours take place May through September the second Wednesday of each month. Educational programs and tours are offered weekdays, and on some weekend nights budding astronomers can enjoy star gazing.

For summertime sports enthusiasts, the park offers plenty of room to play: three soccer fields, two softball fields and two baseball diamonds, a playground and a covered picnic area.

Discovery Kits are available for $3 and can be checked out 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. The kits offer outdoor learning and exploration at the park for children ages 6 to 11 accompanied by an adult, and are ideal for home-school classes, according to the park's website. Each kit comes complete with storybooks and guides so adults will feel comfortable facilitating these interactive nature lessons.

The grounds, which border Bear Creek, are open sunrise to sunset daily, and the nature center hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

The park is at 620 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland. For info, call 541-488-6606.

John Bullock, left, and Harry Fuller look for birds at North Mountain Park in Ashland. [Mail Tribune / file photo]