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Solar pavilion going up at Coyote Trails

Overflowing with a gaggle of grants, Coyote Trails Nature Center in Medford will break ground today on an $84,000 “solar pavilion” — an open-air educational center that can be used for its nature programs, as well as for presentations and classes for schools. It will also be used for performances.

It’s in a natural bowl in the heart of U.S. Cellular Community Park on Bear Creek. The structure will sit on a concrete pad, with the solar array close to the ground so it can be used as a teaching tool for young students, said Molly Kreuzman, manager of Coyote Trails Nature Center.

“It’s one of the first solar arrays where kids can see and understand how it works,” she said, “and we hope to have a meter that shows how much electricity it produces. It’s a multiuse, free-standing amphitheater. It will be volunteer-built, mostly free of labor costs.”

The project won many grants because it serves so many positive functions in the community, including education, green energy, community gatherings and restoration of nature in the area, she said.

Grants came from Pacific Power Blue Sky Program ($32,451), Oregon Department of Energy ($12,419), Energy Trust of Oregon ($12,949), Carrico Family Foundation ($10,000), West Family Foundation ($7,500) and Plum Creek Foundation ($5,000).

Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District gave them $10,000 for a monarch butterfly way station. This helps butterflies and other pollinators.

“It’s really exciting. All these take Coyote Trails to the next level,” she said.

Coyote Trails took the site over from Jefferson Nature Center three years ago. It sits on leased city land. Part of the lease agreement is that Coyote Trails will restore the land near to its natural state, a project that city parks has helped on considerably, she says.

Some of their work includes clearing blackberries and other non-native plants, creating a pollinator garden, adding more than a mile of trails, hauling much asphalt and old tires out and putting in bird boxes. It hosts many school classes and visitors from the general public, many of whom are on site to see ball games. It’s free and open to the public.

True South of Ashland will provide the solar array. Other volunteers on the pavilion are Gene Abell, Abell Architectural Group Inc.; Richard Anderson, Disabilities Recreation Project; Dave Bish, Plant Oregon; Steve Cossin, Coyote Trails; Marty Daniels, Valley Electric; Eric Hansen, True South Solar; Ralph Henderson, Rogue Community College. Construction Department; Kerry KenCairn, KenCairn Landscape Architecture; Sharon Keppler, Evergreen Roofing; Karin Onkka, Onkka Design; Dave Ouellette, music teacher; Roger Owen, Owen Woodworking; Lynne Reardon, Coyote Trails; Shawn Schreiner, True South Solar.

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