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Ashland arboretum is a park and a memorial

In an age when we need to be pumping more oxygen into the atmosphere, tree lovers say it’s a good idea to start an arboretum in any large open space. And why not? It’s beautiful, you can help preserve any threatened species and it’s a great place to hang.

So goes the reasoning of Rochelle Newman, author of four books on the subject — and the creator this year of a spacious arboretum at Mountain Meadows retirement community on North Mountain Avenue, where she and her husband live.

She and the community have planted two giant sequoias, now about 5 feet tall, as well as a couple of Scarlet Oaks. Each “memorial tree” is dedicated to a community member who died in the past year.

A new pear tree, the centerpiece of a 1-acre park, is dedicated to Victor Rogers, late husband of Arlene Rogers, who takes her poodle Bodhi on a walk by it daily.

“It’s a constant reminder,” she says, “of my husband, who was a great supporter of the Mountain Meadows community and was Mr. Fix-It, the guy who could repair anything for all of us. It has that one pear on it and it’s so fitting for him.”

Soon, the arboretum and a matching one across the road (named Madeline Hill Park, for the Mountain Meadows founder), will get park benches, lavender gardens and monarch butterfly way stations. One principle is that for every tree that dies or is removed, one will be planted — and after the arboretum is going, Neuman plans to look at any empty space in Mountain Meadows and plant trees there.

“We’re going to plant the whole 28 acres, the whole shootin’ match,” she says. “It’s so beautiful and people just resonate with it. We won’t see these sequoias grow up, but that’s what an arboretum is — faith in the future.”

The landscape is lovely and welcoming, says Newman, a former college professor in Massachusetts. “But it’s more than a pretty landscape. It’s an educational opportunity. Every piece of it has value, aesthetically, culturally and morally.”

Newman calls Mountain Meadows “our unique environment of a three-dimensional canvas, which is painted in both broad strokes and minute details viewed through the small prism of the four seasons and the large telescope of time."

It eventually will have a walking map with brochures to guide visitors and educate them about local flora. It’s next to a small tributary of Bear Creek and attracts small animals.

Walking by with her dog, Jonnie Zheutlin observed, “The spaces here are terrific. My dog likes to sit in the creek. I’m 91 and won’t see it all grown, but it is a beautiful, meaningful place, a reprieve from the busy world.”

The Southern Oregon Climate Action Network (SOCAN), which meets monthly at Mountain Meadows, will celebrate the aboretum at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, with a short program, followed by SOCAN’s summer potluck at 6:30 p.m. in the Mountain Meadows Clubhouse. RSVP to Rochelle (541-708-5141 or pythpress@sprynet.com).

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.