Watershed Trees in Trouble

By David Runkel
Only two-thirds of the Douglas firs in Siskiyou Mountain Park are healthy, the Parks Commission was told recently by Chris Chambers, the city’s wildfire division chief.
Sixteen percent are dead, more than 10 percent are distressed and another 3.7 percent are declining.  Blame drought and beetles.  “This is something that has to be dealt with soon,” Chambers said. 
“The watershed is in trouble,” added commissioner Dr. Justin Adams.  “Just go out and look at the trees. 
A public meeting to discuss city’s endangered forest lands will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday (10/25) at Fire Station #2 at 1860 Ashland Street.
Earlier this year, the city commissioned an aerial survey of nearly 800 acres of community-owned forests to assess visible swaths of trees that are dead and dying. The proximity of die-off to homes and being situated at the base of the municipal watershed is a major concern. 
Formulating a plan to head off developing fire danger addresses the community’s top priority in polling this spring: wildfire safety.  Taking action now will reduce future costs and help local forests transition to species more adapted to climate change that is already having a visible impact, city officials said. 
A project called Ashland Forestlands Climate Change Adaptation: Phase 1 is being drafted. 
The Oredson-Todd Woods and adjoining Siskiyou Mountain Park are city-owned, dog-friendly parks on the south edge of Ashland. Both are designated as public, natural areas for hiking and biking (on selected trails). The forested canyon and beautiful waterfall along Clay Creek provide a wonderful natural area immediately outside town. 
These two parks contain seven miles of public trails which connect to a larger trail system on the slopes above Ashland, including the popular White Rabbit Trail.
The parks were established in  September 1983 when Mountain Ranch Development Company, a partnership between developers Vincent Oredson and John D. Todd, donated 10 acres of land adjacent to their new subdivision to the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. 
The Oredson-Todd Woods was designated to be a natural area for public use. Several years later, SOLC donated the Woods to the city where it was joined with other city-owned land to make up these two forested parks, comprised of 300 acres and used by hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts today. 

Both properties are permanently protected with conservation easements that specify similar restrictions as the ones outlined by Vincent Oredson and John Todd in 1983.


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