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Beekman Arboretum upgrades continue

Friends of the Beekman Arboretum canceled their main work party this spring due to COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped progress on upgrades at the Jacksonville attraction.

The area has gotten a number of improvements in recent years after a period of neglect. Because it allows for social distancing, it’s been a popular spot for visitors who come to the town, said Kandee McClain, who coordinates efforts of the friends group.

“You know it will never end. We have been moving along with this for over four years now,” said McClain. “It’s a work in progress. It’s never going to be a formal garden.”

In addition to maintenance, the group has installed a picnic shelter, added signage for plants throughout the arboretum, restored a waterfall feature, revitalized a rock garden and is planting a pollinator garden.

Beekman Arboretum, on city-owned land managed by the Jacksonville Woodlands Association, is located behind the historic 1870s Beekman House at 470 E. California St. There’s a one-mile loop trail that circles the 22-acre Beekman Woods starting in the arboretum.

“There are at least 30 or 40 people who are willing to get out and volunteer,” said McClain. “Some of them have been working three or four years up there. They feel ownership. They are proud of it as a group project.”

Two-dozen signs identifying plants were installed in the arboretum in late April and more will be installed. Alan Horobin, who created the arboretum in 1997, told McClain years ago that a facility is not truly an arboretum unless it has signs for the flora, she said.

The signs include photos of the plants and descriptions of them. Jacksonville graphic artist Jim Marin designed the signs and sent them to Pronto Print in Medford, which printed them on a PVC material. Some of the photos were taken by Horobin.

Cedar board backing for the signs was cut by Tom Glover. Assembly of the signs, including placing them on meal posts, was done by Tom Mitchell and Mike McClain. Rob Buerk of the Jacksonville Boosters Club led an effort April 20 to dig 24 holes and place the signs.

Smaller work parties, usually no more than 10 people, have been organized periodically in recent months, although a session May 2 had 16 people.

“There’s plenty of room up here to spread out. We worked hard and then headed home. It wasn’t much of a social event,” McClain said of the May session.

Restoration efforts have been well supported by the city’s Public Works Department, the Jacksonville Woodlands Association and the Jacksonville Boosters Club, said McClain.

A picnic shelter was constructed in 2018 with money from the city, the Boosters and several grants. The open shelter has a concrete floor, measures about 14 by 18 feet, and includes a table and movable benches. It sits just above a recycling waterfall feature that was resurrected about five years ago.

A pollinator garden is being established in the area where Cornelius Beekman used to have a vegetable garden. Some pollinator-friendly plants are already on the site, such as Oregon grape. There’s also milkweed for monarch butterflies. The friends have purchased plants from the Bee City USA group in Phoenix and also rely on that group when they have questions about how to proceed, McClain said.

“We are mostly native plants with the pollinator garden,” said McClain. Zones that showed plantings from other nearby climatological areas were an emphasis when the arboretum was first established, but while they remain the emphasis is now on nurturing plantings that would have been found in the area naturally.

Installation of an irrigation system has allowed for plantings in an old rock garden that had been mostly taken over by weeds and orchard grass. A welcome rock is located at the arboretum, and the Jacksonville Garden Club has planted the area around the rock.

The 22-acre Beekman Woods was the first parcel preserved by the Jacksonville Woodlands Association when it formed in the late 1980s. Cornelius Beekman was a pioneer banker and businessman instrumental in the development of Jacksonville.

Brochures and an information kiosk with pictures are located at the entrance to help visitors identify plants. The friends publicize work efforts with notices via Facebook and from the Boosters Club.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

courtesy photoA welcome rock at the Beekman Arboretum with nearby information kiosk.