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Ashland wants to move Greenway, expand wetlands

Ashland Public Works is moving ahead on a complex, multiyear project to redesign parklands and the bike path around the wastewater treatment plant and Ashland Pond, so as to create new wetlands and lower the fish-unfriendly temperature of treated effluent into creeks.

The plan was detailed last week by Public Works Director Paula Brown to the city Parks & Recreation Commission, which manages much of the property. Commissioners expressed general approval of changes to parks, but did not vote on it.

The plan calls for outfall from the treatment plant to stop going into Ashland Creek, where it creates most of the water flow in summer, instead shifting it to Bear Creek. The two streams merge just above tiny Ashland Pond. This is to meet longstanding demands of the state Department of Environmental Quality for cooler effluent needed by salmon.

This will require building a new outfall pipe along the south side of Ashland Pond, a favorite of bird watchers and hikers, which would then dump treated effluent into Bear Creek at the northwest point of the pond.

“I certainly hope DEQ will be happy with us,” said Brown, in an interview. “It’s the last big phase for us to get in 100 percent compliance. We want the Parks Department comfortable with this and I think they are.”

Parks Commissioner Rick Landt expressed concern about possible loss of large, native trees around the pond. Brown said they would be preserved if possible or replaced with similar trees if necessary.

A public hearing on the outfall will be held in October.

The project includes building a third oxidation ditch, in anticipation of population growth. These are the first stages of cleaning wastewater. It will go west of the treatment plant, in the large, open Michelle Field, which is under the Parks Department. The BMX park south of the plant will have to be relocated.

To meet DEQ effluent temperature requirements, the city will have to build 10 to 12 acres of wetlands, which will be supplied with finished effluent. These wetlands will come from existing “demonstration” wetlands east of the plant (north of the dog park) and almost 8 acres on the newly acquired Hardesty property along Bear Creek. These, said Brown, would be maintained in a parklike setting accessible to the public.

To the relief of many, the Bear Creek Greenway will no longer take users alongside the treatment plant, from the dog park to the creek, but will see a new piece of the Greenway along Ashland Creek, up to the Nevada Street bridge.

In addition to wetlands, the Hardesty property will absorb the function of the materials and vehicles storage yard, also used for police and fire training, located at B Street and Mountain Avenue — opening up the possibility that vacated land could be used for much-needed housing, said Brown.

Trees will be planted to shade Bear Creek, thus lowering water temperature. Costs aren’t nailed down yet, she said, but will come from existing budgets of Public Works and other departments, as building proceeds over the next three to four years.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneThe Greenway bike path next to Ashland's water treatment plant will be moved next to Ashland Creek under a proposal that would expand wetlands to cool treated effluent flowing into creeks.