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Letters, Feb. 12

Japanese Garden could be Ashland’s survival

Ashland is a city in crisis.

For many years, we in Ashland have depended on the income from tourists to support our way of life. Being extremely fortunate to have such amenities as the fabulous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, wonderful hotel accommodations, outstanding restaurants and a variety of retail, we have prospered.

All of this is in jeopardy from the forest fires and the resultant smoke. Half of our most productive tourist season was wiped out last year, and this year promises no better. Before this situation has further negative results on our city, we need to diligently devise a strategy which compensates for our loss from the smoke.

Fortunately a possibility has come along that serendipitously could be a part of the answer to our problem. Jeff Mangin has generously offered to expand our Japanese garden into an authentic, world-class garden. He engaged a group from the community to select a national expert in authentic Japanese garden design. Toru Tanaka was trained by the finest landscape architects in Japan, and was in the last generation of students to complete the vigorous, hands-on training. His years of experience with the Portland Japanese Garden gives him added knowledge of our trees and conditions in the Northwest. Toru invited input from the public in workshops as a part of his design process.

Since our summers are no longer dependable for attracting a large number of tourists, we need to begin looking at the shoulder seasons to bolster our numbers. Fortunately, the most spectacular seasons for a Japanese garden are the spring and fall. This could be a major added Ashland attraction during these two seasons that brings in more tourists. It could also influence the expansion of plays offered by OSF during that time, perhaps even compensating for the loss of tourism after the middle of July, saving OSF, the hotels, the restaurants and the retail.

Authentic Japanese gardens are immensely popular and draw a significant number of tourists. Among Portland’s endless amenities, Trip Advisor rates the Portland Japanese Garden as the number two attraction. Lebanon, Oregon, realized a rebirth of its city through a small hospital courtyard Japanese Garden that evolved into a hotel and much larger Japanese Garden across the street, attracting numerous meetings and conventions.

Unfortunately, the offer to build our Japanese Garden has been jeopardized and is now in question.

It would be a true loss to Ashland if this amazing gift was withdrawn. We need to look at the entire situation we are faced with and realize that the Japanese garden could be a huge benefit, a big part of our survival strategy, which brings us successfully through this crisis. I hope our community will come together and make this happen for the good of all.

Kathryn Thalden


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