fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Doug-fir supporters plan Tuesday gathering

View all photos

For the people who fought last winter to protect a century-old stand of Douglas fir trees in Lithia Park called the McLaren Grove, the battle is not over.

The Friends of Lithia Park, led by Julie Norman and JoAnne Eggers, are staging a video and lecture presentation celebrating the park and its designer, John McLaren (creator of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park), at 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 14, at Headwaters Environmental Center, 4th and C streets, Ashland. It’s free and open to the public.

The presentation, called “A Lasting Vision,” features several 3- to 4-minute films, including Larry Cooper’s “Legacy of Trees: John McLaren’s Gift to Ashland,” which is an aerial drone tour of the dozen firs planted when McLaren spent much time in Ashland in 1914-15, forging the framework of the park, including the “Japanese-style garden” adjacent to the now-giant firs.

The firs were planted by Boy Scouts — and two of them were slated for cutting last January to make way for an authentic Japanese garden funded by a $1.3 million gift from Jeff Mangin.

Removal of the firs was met with fierce opposition from Norman, Eggars and others — and unanimously rejected by the Ashland Tree Commission — but was approved 3-2 by the city Parks & Recreation Commission. In the wake of the public controversy, Mangin requested the project be put on hold through the end of the year.

The Parks Commission in March put the Japanese Garden upgrade on its biennial goals list, so Norman and Eggers said they still consider the battle as ongoing, likely to be resumed next year.

The Friends of Lithia Park are seeking signatures on a petition to declare the grove as Heritage Trees, a motion that would be decided by the Tree Commission and forwarded to Ashland City Council, in hopes the trees would be spared from the chain saw, says Norman. They cited an arborist report this year that says, though old, the trees are still growing — and provide habitat for red-shouldered hawks.

“The purpose of this educational evening is to encourage respect for the fir grove,” said Norman. “The more citizens who sign the petition, the more influence we will have with the Parks Commission and City Council.”

The firs can’t be nominated for Tree of the Year, because that’s only for trees on private land, but they can be pronounced Heritage Trees, as was a majestic silver maple amid new Southern Oregon University dorm construction, she says.

They will show the National Geographic film “How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other in the Forest,” which details how older, larger “hub trees” manage a mycelium-based network of nutrients and communication to scores of smaller trees around them, says Norman.

Bryan Holley, a former tree commissioner and community garden activist, will give a brief scientific talk, “The Hidden Life of Trees.”

Ashland filmmakers Mark and Cici Brown will show “Simple Gifts, A Song for Lithia Park,” their 2006 film showing local teens playing the old Shaker hymn “Sweet Sounds” in the sycamore grove adjacent to the Japanese garden and fir grove. The grove was created by McLaren to be a “musical concourse,” they say.

A discussion will follow the films. More information and the online petition are at www.tinyurl.com/FirGrove.

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

Out of town visitors walk by the row of fir trees in Lithia Park in between the performance stage and Japanese Gardens.{ }Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings
Julie Norman talks with visitors about the controversy over the fir trees in Lithia Park.{ }Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings