Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't Shoot the Resources!

Shortly after the turn of the century (the last century, in 1900) the City of Ashland purchased a piece of property along Emigrant Creek and began the development of "Lithia Water," a highly-mineralized stuff that was supposed to spark huge resort development in town ("Ashland Grows when Lithia Flows," as the jingle went). A number of interesting buildings were constructed in concrete and stucco, all designed around the Lithia Water that was piped to several locations around town. The water locations included the Depot, the Library and most prominently, Lithia Park, which was named during this same period. You can still get Lithia Water in the park, at the wooden kiosk next to the Band Shell.

Anyway, Lithia Water, um, fizzled, a bit and eventually the Springs site become home to a CO2 plant. Periodic efforts to bottle and market the water itself invariably failed when people realized they had actually been drinking all that mineralized goo that settled to the bottom of the clear containers. Ashland still has Lithia Water in three spots (including the new Civic Center) and just recently we had great fun designing the restoration of the 1927 Lithia Fountain, front and center on the Plaza.

Meanwhile, after WWII, the Lithia Spring site itself, out by the Ashland Airport, saw little use after the bottling plant closed. The property was eventually leased to the Ashland Gun Club, a group of private and law enforcement users that set up targets and ranges, where they can practice and learn new skills. It's a pretty active community, and it gives them and most of the police departments south of Medford a safe place to shoot. Ashland's Public Works Department has in the past used the site for dumping fill (a practice now ended) and between that and the gun club's penchant for berms its not much of an overstatement to say the landscape as been serially, and severely, modified since the 1960s.

But there are still buildings, and walls, and of course wells, out there... all in increasingly poor condition. Four years ago we evaluated the property for its NR potential. Given the fact that the Lithia Water development was a major part of Ashland's history, and that Lithia Water itself remains a somewhat iconic part of Ashland, it wasn't too hard to find the Springs site to be potentially significant under Criterion A. One of the recommendations was that the City and the Gun Club develop a management plan that would better protect these fragile resources against the day that they have some more public use (the gun club, for obvious reasons, isn't too keen on tourists wandering around the property). Ashland, a Certified Local Government, received a small grant from Oregon SHPO to fund the documentation.

Ashland hired us to develop the management plan and so last week I again went to the Lithia Springs site, poked through the brambles (and shell casings) took a bunch of pictures, and began to think how to protect these remaining elements of Ashland's Lithia Springs era. At the moment my "three commandments" for appropriate action are boiling down to;

"Keep Them Dry,
Keep Them Clean,
Don't Shoot at Them."

I will probably have to flesh that out a bit, but I think the basic tenets will remain.

No comments:

Post a Comment