Situated beneath the Siskiyou Mountains is a 93 acre refuge called Lithia Park. The park was built in 1915 by John McLaren, and retains some of its original features. It is in the town of Ashland Oregon, and meanders along the sparkling Ashland Creek. In recent years, crowds have become a major problem, so weekdays are best. The lower part of Lithia Park features a pond of floating swans that marks the entrance to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The upper part offers a waterfall, a pond of ducks, a band shell, used for concerts, and a series of intriguing steps and bridges. Lithia Park is a favorite spot for hikers, actors, who want to rehearse in the shade of trees, and families seeking a beautiful picnic spot. Children love to play in the shallow, clear water of Ashland Creek, and are heard often, laughing and cavorting. I offer some photos of the upper part of Lithia Park.
An aside: For visitors that are new to Southern Oregon, one must realize that the towns of Medford and Ashland are like different countries, so great are the differences. Ashland has had a teacher’s college for years(Southern Oregon College). It recently became Southern Oregon University. However, it is a university in name only. It offers no doctoral programs. That was the agreement reached with other Oregon universities to avoid competition for students. In general, Oregon has been a state of ecological awareness, but poor education. At one time, it ranked 49th out of all the states, outranking only lowly Louisiana. But the Oregon Shakespeare Festival brought in many people from the arts, and Ashland offers more educational opportunities than any other Southern Oregon town. People throng daily to walk the streets, and investigate the many shops the town offers. By contrast, Medford is not a town of walkers, and does not attract many visitors. West Medford is notorious for crime, poverty, and drug use. Type 2 diabetes is the illness of choice for women, since obesity is rampant. Alcoholism is the illness of choice for men. The youth prefer pot or meth, because of its availability and relative cheap cost. Medford abounds in single mothers with multiple fathers, while Ashland has the region’s largest gay community. The poverty is so bad in Medford, that during a recent teachers’ strike, the Medford Superintendent, Long, stated that more than half of the children were either receiving free lunches or were getting them at a discount. This does not mean there are no poor people in Ashland. Just that they are less visible among the teeming citizens. Ashland is the most liberal community in Southern Oregon. Medford, and all other communities in the region are far more conservative. A friend of mine, when he arrived from the Bay Area, told me he thought of Medford as a different country. And, in a way, he’s right.