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Temporary closures on Watershed trails begin

Eight trails and several roads in the Ashland Watershed will be closed beginning today.

Hikers and others are asked to avoid those areas during the closure, which is expected to continue through the end of April.

Trails impacted include upper Alice in Wonderland, White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Jabberwocky, Toothpick, Marty's, Catwalk and Eastview.

Road closures include Ashland Loop Road 2060 above Morton Street and at U.S. Forest Service Road 2060-500 coming from the west side of the Watershed. In addition, Upper Tolman Creek Road 2080 will be closed in the area of Toothpick Trail, which includes the Four Corners trailhead.

Signs will be posted along the closed routes. The closures will be in effect at all times to protect the public from dangerous conditions that occur during tree-thinning and harvesting work, officials said.

Alternate trails include BTI, Bandersnatch, Oredson-Todd Woods, lower Siskiyou Mountain Park and Hitt Road. All trails in Lithia Park, the Talent Irrigation District, and Strawberry-Hald Park will remain open.

The thinning work and helicopter operations will be similar to that completed last fall above upper Lithia Park and Granite Street, according to Donna Mickley, ranger for the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

"We need to address the issue of fire danger in the city's watershed, and we ask that citizens cooperate while this important work is completed," she said in a prepared statement.

The project is a partnership between Ashland, the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service.

The goal is to restore the health of the overstocked forest while reducing the chances of a catastrophic wildfire that could threaten houses and the city's water supply, officials stressed. Large fires swept through much of the Ashland Watershed in 1910 and again in 1959.

Last month, a U.S. district court judge in Medford ruled against a lawsuit by two activists who said the project violated environmental laws governing soil erosion. The plaintiffs vowed to appeal to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Updates on the trail and road closures will be posted at www.ashlandwatershed.org and www.facebook.com/AFR.Project.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.