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TID canal: a valued vernacular landscape

Frequently, as we have all found in life, something that was created for one purpose will go on to become valuable for other reasons as well. Egypt’s pyramids? Roman aqueducts and triumphal arches; monolithic stones set in a circle? As a smaller, local example I want us to consider Ashland’s TID canal.

Its sole original purpose was to convey water to orchardists and farmers down the valley. Along the way, adjacent property owners were allowed the option of pulling some of the water for local use. These uses are still active and important.

Over time, our TID canal and its adjacent walking path have assumed another set of values that are important to thousands of people. Literature used by geographers and land-use experts sometimes calls these qualities “vernacular landscape.” The TID Canal and walking path is a widely appreciated vernacular landscape. It has become, in fact, a cherished riparian area with diverse qualities which enhance the life of our community. And it is in use from pre-dawn to dark by thousands of Ashlanders and visitors yearly. For brevity’s sake, I’ll use bullet points here:

  • The “wetland,” riparian nature of this canal enhances the adjacent walking path and largely accounts for its popularity (and drives the public outcry against covering it over).
  • Animals use the water — racoons, squirrels, bears, deer, frogs, crayfish, and dozens of aquatic animal and plant species.
  • And the grand intangibles of the canal — rippling brook sounds, dappled reflections of forest and sky, the moisture in the air, the pleasures we walkers feel just strolling beside it.
  • The many, many (yes, it is thousands) of people who walk this canal yearly. The dog people; the joggers; the newcomers to Ashland who have just discovered this forest interface treasure.
  • The fact that the covered-over parts of this canal have a dry deadness to them, when compared to where the water enters or exits the buried pipes and flows rippling along. The difference in the ambience, and even the light, is palpable.

So, please, respect what this open TID canal has become as it has aged into our community. Recognize that it is not simply a civil engineering project to deliver water. See that it is far more — a naturalized riparian environment, a vernacular landscape of and for the people of this city and our visitors.

Do repair the leaks and perform deferred maintenance. But please do not cover and remove this resource from its many appreciative users. That would be a major loss for all of us.

Keith S. Chambers lives in Ashland.