Outdoor spaces to become more friendly for kids and environment

    Photo Courtesy of GreenWorks<br>Children play at a “nature playground” at Westmoreland Park in Portland that’s much like one planned for North Mountain Park in Ashland.

    A new way for kids to play is one step closer, thanks to a donation of services from Clouser Drilling Inc.

    Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission’s plan to build a nature play center at North Mountain Park, at 620 North Mountain Ave., progressed Tuesday as Ashland City Council unanimously approved a donation of services from Clouser Drilling to Ashland Parks and Recreation for drilling a well in preparation for the construction.

    “One of the things I feel is lacking in our community is a place where kids can play freely in nature and manipulate their environment in a way that is in a space that feels comfortable to parents and is also minimally disrupting to wildlife,” said North Mountain Park Nature Center Manager Libby VanWyhe.

    VanWyhe said that the nature play area will “enhance” the recreational and educational value of the park, and won’t diminish its current scenic or architectural values.

    The project is dependent on fundraising efforts, donations and partnerships, VanWyhe said. She said the commission has received more than $200,000 in grants and donations, and the donation from Clouser Drilling is a significant help in offering this new “free-play environment” opportunity for kids.

    The nature play center will be constructed with natural materials rather than traditional, brightly colored plastics, to encourage kids to play in nature without displacing any existing habitats.

    Clouser Drilling’s donation of crews and equipment to drill the groundwater well on park property is valued at $10,455, according to city documents. The documents state that Ashland Parks and Recreation will incur minimal costs as a result of the donation, including staff time to schedule the work and check in on the day of drilling, as well as ongoing water quality testing.

    People can find more information or donate to the project at ashland.or.us/NaturePlayArea.

    If the total funding goal of $258,000 is met, construction is set to begin in the spring of 2019.

    Cool water contract

    Being aware of the impacts of climate change was at the forefront of residents’ minds at Tuesday night’s meeting. But people can rest assured: Cooler waters are coming.

    The city of Ashland has partnered with The Freshwater Trust, a conservation not-for-profit based in Portland, to “develop and implement a water quality trading program for temperature compliance with the Clean Water Act.”

    Ashland Public Works Director Paula Brown said the water quality trading program will look directly at how to keep water in the rivers cooler, benefiting “fish, humans, cool waters, everything.” The plan was accepted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in March as being consistent with Oregon’s Water Quality Trading Rule, Brown said.

    Goals of the program include being prepared for the impact of climate change on the community and maintaining and improving infrastructure that enhances the economic vitality of the community, according to city documents.

    Phase one of the program — which will consist of initial program and architectural design — may cost up to $131,988. Ashland City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed the first phase.

    Phase two of the program could begin as early as three months from the start of phase one, according to city documents.

    Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Morgan Theophil at mtheophil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4485. Follow her on Twitter @morgan_theophil.

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