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The Plaza gets a new 'holiday' tree

With the annual Festival of Light celebration in mind, Ashland city crews planted a new “holiday” tree in the Ashland Plaza.

The tree, a Nordmann fir, is adjacent to City Hall near the Plaza bus stop.

The tree was purchased from Plant Oregon Nursery in Talent for $2,500, said Public Works Director Paula Brown.

Parks Superintendent Mike Oxendine said the tree replaces one of the two that have been removed in the downtown area in the past few years. He said because Ashland is a certified Tree City, staff must track each tree removed by the city and find a way to replace them.

“Several large trees have been lost on the Ashland Plaza in the past few decades, including a large pine tree that died as a result of drought and heat stress,” Oxendine said. “This tree had been decorated yearly as a celebratory holiday tree during the Festival of Light. We hope this new addition to the Plaza will be beloved by many for generations to come. We all look forward to seeing this tree decorated in November for the Festival of Light.”

A sidewalk replacement along East Main Street earlier this year gave staff the opportunity to add more greenery to that area, Brown said.

She said the sidewalk, which was cracked and broken in several places, was entirely replaced and pushed back away from the street about 4 feet in order to preserve the trees there. Instead of the straight line that was there, it now curves around the tree trunks.

“That’s what we always want to do is preserve trees,” Oxendine said.

The sidewalk was also improved to meet Americans With Disabilities standards, and Rogue Valley Transportation District put in a larger bus stop bench and shelter.

Oxendine said the fir will thrive in its little plot downtown because it can stand drought well and can take the reflective heat given off by parked cars and asphalt.

It’ll also do well decorated for the holiday season, he added.

“Preserving and planting trees in Ashland is environmentally beneficial, but there’s also beauty to it,” Brown said. “Can you imagine a downtown in the fall without trees?”

Brown and Oxendine said they hope the downtown revitalization project will allow the addition of more trees, planters and greening effects.

Brown said a community input session for the Revitalize Downtown Ashland project is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at Carpenter Hall. Oxendine and Brown said the vision gathered from the community input sessions will be what determines the scope of the project.

Oxendine, one of the city’s licensed arborists, said ecological benefits are a core value of most public works departments.

“There are tons of studies that show that businesses do better with trees planted in front of their storefronts. They can charge more for the products, and students do better in school,” Oxendine said. “Just by looking out of a window and seeing a tree has been shown to improve test scores. The benefits to planting trees aren’t just psychological, they’re very tangible.”

Other studies show that when trees are planted along busy streets, traffic tends to slow down, because the field of sight is obstructed by the leafy canopies, he said.

“And it’s just prettier,” Brown added.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

(Nov. 5: Story updated to correct the start of the open house to 5 p.m.)

Jamie Lusch / Daily Tidings Paula Brown, public works director, and Mike Oxendine, Ashland parks supervisor, stand next to recently planted tree at the Ashland plaza on Monday.