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Bacteria warning issued for Ashland Creek in Lithia Park

People should stay out of Ashland Creek near the children's playground area in Lithia Park, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department warned Thursday.

Regular testing turned up levels of bacteria higher than state safety standards. Bacterial levels regularly rise in summer months because more people are coming in contact with less water, and the water is warmer, but this year has seen levels spike earlier than usual due to drought conditions.

Ashland's Neil and Bear creeks began posing an elevated risk of illness and infection for swimmers and waders in June this year.

People should avoid contact with the water, especially if they have open wounds. Care should be taken to not swallow the creek water.

Causes of contamination can include waste from pets, livestock or wild animals, leaking septic systems and illegal dumping of portable toilets or recreational vehicle tanks.

People should pick up after their pets, not dump manure or kitty litter near creeks or storm drains and make sure toddlers wear swim diapers, the parks department advised.

Health-related questions can be directed to Jackson County Public Health at 541-774-8206. More information is available at www.ashlandparksandrec.org.