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Riparian lease agreement approved with The Freshwater Trust

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a Riparian Land Lease Agreement with The Freshwater Trust to allow for restoration work on Bear Creek, in line with the city’s water quality standards.

“This land lease will allow the city, through its agent, The Freshwater Trust, to perform restoration activities along the south bank of Bear Creek on three parcels that are managed by Ashland Parks and Rec,” said Ashland Public Works project manager Kaylea Kathol.

Water discharged from the city’s wastewater treatment plant into the Bear Creek waterway is warm and thus inconsistent with requirements within the Clean Water Act, Kathol said. To maintain compliance with the Act, the city and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality agreed to identify water temperature mitigation.

Those activities include invasive species management, temporary irrigation, and the replanting of native riparian forest vegetation on unshaded stream frontages and areas that have become overgrown with blackberries.

The goal of the land lease agreement is to create a functioning streamside environment with a longterm source of cooling shade for the creek, using field investigations and modeling to quantify “measurable and calculable” benefits at the most effective sites, she said.

“On city-owned lands, once we identified good restoration sites, we pursue a 21-year lease of the riparian area,” Kathol explained. “For 20 of those 21 years, that site generates thermal credits. ... They’re essentially temperature offsets for the warm water from the wastewater treatment plant.”

Site preparation is slated to begin this winter. Blackberries will be mowed in late spring 2021 and crews will spot-apply herbicides in the late fall before planting.

“The lease agreement will not restrict the current level of community access to Riverwalk Park and adjacent APRC lands,” according to Commission meeting materials.

After 36 years in conservation work, The Freshwater Trust has experience managing similar water quality programs and maintains that within large restoration projects, the only effective method of removing noxious weeds to allow native plants to flourish is with targeted herbicide use as part of an “integrated pest management” approach, according to meeting materials.

APRC Director Michael Black also reported during the meeting that one month since work began on the Japanese Garden redesign project in Lithia Park, some of the trees slated for removal have been taken out, a tree protection plan for remaining trees has been implemented and existing stones and boulders are being set aside for use in the new design.

“We’re moving along with that project and very happy with the progress that we’ve made so far,” Black said.

Parks staff are managing existing work and contractors will arrive in January to proceed with the project, he said. The city has estimated a construction timeline of two years.

The Parks department presented a draft renovation and design report for the Daniel Meyer Pool to the public Tuesday and is in the process of evaluating the proposed plan. Black said he will offer a presentation to the APRC on the first Wednesday in February with an updated pool renovation plan, after incorporating answers to questions from the public.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

Community access to Riverwalk Park will not be impeded by planned restoration activities, according to city staff. (Allayana Darrow / Ashland Tidings)