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East Main Park under design

Photo courtesy of Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission | APRC has entered the design phase for a new park at the 6.5-acre 2280 East Main Street property in south Ashland.

ASHLAND — A second public listening session March 3 represented a “significant benchmark” as the first public discussion of a preliminary plan for East Main Park, Parks Director Michael Black said.

Ashland Parks and Recreation has entered the design phase for a new park at the 6.5-acre 2280 E. Main St. property in south Ashland.

Terrain Landscape Architecture presented the most detailed draft plan thus far via a public input session, showing the intended shape of the park with all its features, and offering a “feel for the park” and “the overall design theme,” Black said.

Piper von Chamier with Terrain Landscape Architecture said the East Main Park project has solidified the organization’s mission to reach out to communities and look at their landscapes through a “regenerative lens.”

Incorporating feedback from the March 3 public meeting and a traffic study completes the discovery phase of the project, which started with a site analysis, preceding a refinement phase, von Chamier said.

In addition to community outreach and work group engagement, survey results also guide the design. In September 2021, a public survey about park elements yielded about 1,000 responses, according to the Terrain team.

Of respondents, 72% lived within 2 miles of the park and about half planned to bike or walk to the park. More than half of respondents had minor children, and 82% of the children were ages 6-12. Sixty percent of respondents were dog owners.

Respondents’ top five wishes for the park included a pump track, walking paths, pollinator plants, picnic areas and a playground for children age 6 and up, according to the Terrain team. For the dog park, respondents said they wanted shade trees, a large turf area or space to play ball, a walking loop and benches.

The new park replaces the former Ashland Family YMCA park, which was primarily used for the fitness center’s programming over other public uses.

“We just didn’t see a lot of use from the public and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that the YMCA was using it for all of their programs,” Black said. “They were certainly entitled to do that, and I’m not saying they did anything wrong, but it just seemed like we might want to look at getting a park that had less restrictions and third-party users and get something that was predominantly public.”

Black said support comes from locals who want to see a neighborhood park within walking distance, as well as members of the mountain biking community excited about the possibility of a pump track and skills park. Others have long desired to see a dog park in south Ashland, he said.

“I think the key to make it a true, great public place is to get the public involved and to hear what they think needs to go into it,” Black said. “We also are lucky enough to be able to choose a park space that already has good connections to the neighborhoods through vehicular access … [and] pedestrian access and bicycle access.”

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission and Ashland City Council approved acquisition of 5.5 acres at 2228 E. Main St. in 2018. The adjacent property owner offered 1 acre to add to the lot for $100,000, and the construction of East Main neighborhood park became a listed priority for APRC in early 2019.

APRC adopted building the neighborhood park — including a dog park, bicycle pump track and skills park — as the fourth of its five top goals for this biennium.

“This park here pretty much ties it up for most of the areas in the city,” Black said. “There are some very distinct areas where there’s exceptions, but generally speaking, Ashland has a park or an open space within a quarter-mile of all the residents that you can walk to and take advantage of.”

The work group focused on park planning includes APRC Chair Rick Landt, Commissioner Julian Bell, Casey Botts from the Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association, neighborhood HOA president Judy Butler, and Kaylea Kathol with the city public works department.

“The plan that we’re going to see tonight was really spawned at a public meeting where staff helped 40 or 50 members of the community put things on a map,” Landt said. “It looks rather similar to what we ended up with.”

The property has sufficient space for a community garden, open space, walking trails, bicycle pump track, skills park, dog park, playground, restrooms and parking, according to conceptual designs.

Land sales and previously dedicated funds total nearly $2 million available for the project, with about three-quarters of a million to develop the park after land purchases and design costs.

“We do have the money to move forward and to at least get started on this park,” Black said March 3. “Depending on the cost or the expense of development, this park could be phased over time.”

Feedback from the public meeting is expected to guide planning as the design phase progresses. APRC is slated to discuss the preliminary park design April 13 at 6 p.m.