Celebrating 40 Years of Conservation: The early years

Celebrating 40 Years of Conservation: The early years

This month we are highlighting two conserved public-access properties located in Ashland, Ore. We are grateful to the City of Ashland, the Ashland Woodland & Trails Association, and the countless volunteers who help maintain these incredible natural gems. We hope you enjoy this month’s “hike” down memory lane. – Cathy Dombi, Executive Director

During the first few years, the SOLC board, led by president Ben Day, was busy establishing policies, setting goals and priorities, enlisting new members, and collaborating with other local conservation-minded groups such as the Bear Creek Greenway Committee. In 1979, the all-volunteer organization, sponsored a conservancy workshop led by the Trust for Public Lands. The same year, treasurer, Dave Garcia, reported that the newly formed nonprofit had total assets of $345 and just 24 members. Today, SOLC has over 1000 member-households with current assets over $1.7 million.

When building homes and subdivisions, we must remember the importance of including natural spaces.
— Vince Oredson, Sr.

In 1983, Vince Oredson, Sr. and John Todd, two local developers who built one of Ashland’s first subdivisions off Tolman Creek Road, donated 10 acres of nearby land to SOLC for the “perpetual enjoyment of the public.” Oredson acknowledged the importance of protecting land for the public. “When building homes and subdivisions, we must remember the importance of including natural spaces“, said Oredson. True then and even more vital now.

Today, those 10 acres are adjacent to the Siskiyou Mountain Park owned by the City of Ashland and protected in a collaborative partnership with SOLC.

In the early 1990s the City of Ashland and SOLC, under the direction of then president Mike Uhtoff, secured an adjacent property, which when combined became a 281-acre preserve, protected through a conservation agreement. SOLC sponsored a “Buy an Acre” campaign in 1991 to acquire the open space. Donors contributed $27,500 to help the city purchase the parcels. The Mike Uhtoff Trail honors Mike’s contributions and work in securing the funding for the project.

The land sits above the city limits and is near a large tract of federal land. The property is forested and contains pedestrian and biking trails; the park is also dog and horse-friendly. Hikers can begin walking at Oredson-Todd Woods and connect to the Pacific Crest Trail and Mt. Ashland through the Creeks to Mountains trail system.

John Muir School 7th & 8th graders adopt the Woods stewarding and learning throughout the year.

Clay Creek meanders through a canyon in the Oredson-Todd Woods attracting an array of birds and mammals, including the Pacific fisher. It’s a quiet but well-used park where runners, walkers, dogs, and baby strollers can sometimes cross paths. Each April SOLC offers Loving the Land, a week of free nature-based activities for grade-school students and their teachers. The City of Ashland Parks and Recreation Department manages the park for wildlife, natural open space, and public use.  While it may seem that these uses conflict, the park is beloved by many people – all who have a stake in its protection.

Author’s note: In 1999, SOLC donated the Oredson-Todd Woods to the City of Ashland. SOLC maintains conservation agreements for the Siskiyou Mountain Park and Oredson-Todd Woods.

Clay Creek waterfall in Oredson-Todd Woods. Photo by Tom Kirchen.