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Tree thinning project underway in upper Lithia Park

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department has put a $25,000 donation from Avista Utilities toward a fuels-reduction and forest-restoration project in upper Lithia Park.

The work began Nov. 12 and will continue through Sunday, Dec. 15.

Jason Minica, Ashland forestry, trails and open space supervisor, has worked on fuel-reduction projects covering some 500 acres of forest land and open spaces the department owns in the past 20 years.

He has three crew members who are also trained in forestry and restoration who regularly work to maintain park lands. But for a project of this scale, they’ve contracted with Grants Pass-based company Abraham Contracting.

Parks staff, along with the Jackson County Community Justice restitution crews, are also working on fuels-reduction in the 12-acre Eastwood property during this time.

The donation from Avista Utilities is compensation for a gas shutoff that occurred last summer.

“We’re just trying to put it to good use,” Minica said. “It’s just a really important area geographically for the town for fuel reduction. It can break up the intensity of the fire.”

Minica said once the area is properly thinned, if a major fire were to start in the watershed, the restored area could help to slow the fire spread, giving firefighters a chance to contain it before it could reach town. He said it works both ways. If a fire were to start at the lower end of the park, the thinned area could keep it from spreading too quickly into the watershed, potentially giving crews time to contain it. The area is near several homes.

Minica said his crew performs this type of work year-round. Most of the work involves thinning trees, cutting out fading and stressed trees, and retaining trees along cut banks to maintain soil stability, according to a press release. Crews will create burn piles that will be burned later.

Trails will remain open except for short, temporary closures when felling larger trees near trails, according to the press release.

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

Workers clear brush and dead trees Wednesday in Lithia Park as part of a fuels-reduction project. Photo by Denie Baratta
A tree is cut Wednesday in Lithia Park as part of a fire fuels-reduction project by the city of Ashland. Photo by Denise Baratta