It is time for me (a 45-year resident of Ashland) to step up and make a comment on the proposal to remove two beautiful Douglas fir trees in Lithia Park to make way for a new Japanese Garden.
First let me say that my connection with Lithia Park has spanned the entire period of time in which I have lived in Ashland. My children played there when growing up. I myself have hiked through the park hundreds of times, and over the years continue to cherish its very existence. The Japanese Garden especially was a wonderful place for me to relax with my young daughter, who loved to make small boats out of a fallen leaf and a twig, and float them down the stream in the garden. She would then take her leaf/twig boat home to further fun in our backyard.
That tradition has now spanned another generation in my family, as I take my grandchildren there to do the same thing in the same spot. It is usually quiet, and our presence in that glade brings us peace in a hectic world. Much of that peace is afforded by the tall and stately trees that surround the site. I love the ginkgos, I love the Douglas firs, they are part of the setting there, and it is my feeling that the designer, Don Todt, seemed to consider their placement in his work. For a place to be considered serene and peaceful, the design MUST take into consideration its setting in the world. We have all experienced new buildings popping up that look like they dropped from outer space because their setting was not fully incorporated into their design and not even considered in some cases!
The Douglas firs are an important component in the edge space of the garden and should be part of the design, not removed. We see redtailed hawks there. There are western screech owls nearby. Many other bird species who need mature trees for their livelihood are there. The trees shelter us in a world that is losing shelter again and again as we speak. We need to consider the setting disruption, and also the introduction of potentially invasive species in this design. (Timber bamboo growing under a Doug fir is not part of a gentle transition.)
It is also important that the Parks Commission take note that a single person’s gift to the Ashland community to honor their personal loved one must be a part of that community’s plan to receive. No matter how well-heeled our donor is, it is important that the community has a say in a community project. If we choose to overlook that simple point, we suffer for it again and again. We need to always ask, is this project for the benefit of the community, or for the memory of a single loved one? If it is the former, then community discussion must be welcomed and fully taken into consideration in the design.