I guess I never looked too closely at the Plaza in downtown Ashland before the recent Extreme Makeover: Plaza Edition started. I had walked through it, sat on the benches and parked next to it without ever thinking that it needed updating. That's not to say I'm against the project, though — I'm excited about any type of beautification project. I hope my bathroom is the next subject for a beautification campaign.
I hear the grass in the Plaza was getting trampled and is being replaced with more resistant plants. It's too bad there seems to be such an intense effort to eradicate blackberries throughout Ashland in recent years, or I would suggest that as the perfect trample-resistant plant. Sure, it may be a non-native species, but let's face it, so are most Ashlanders. A blackberry bush downtown would provide snacks, an activity for families, and speaking as the victim of many foot-to-thorn encounters, would not get stepped on more than once.
While we wait for the beautification stage of the Plaza to start, we're stuck staring at a giant mud puddle. I'm not a huge fan of mud, having to regularly scrape it off the bottom of my son's shoes before he's allowed in the house, and I can sympathize with the business owners downtown that worry that the mud-pit construction zone makes some people think the Plaza businesses are closed, or believe there is no parking. In actuality, people probably know that there's open parking, but don't want to risk getting their car dirty.
I've never been under the impression that the Plaza, or the businesses there, were closed. Maybe this is a personal level of obliviousness, but seeing mud, fences and construction vehicles just doesn't say "keep out" to me.
In the meantime, while we wait for the Plaza to become beautiful again (and definitely before there's any serious discussion about placing blackberry bushes there) I think we can take advantage of this mud and dirt.
I have seen that show, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," just once (OK, I admit it, twice), and was fascinated to see the family participate in a mud puddle belly flopping contest. I think we could have something like that happen downtown. We could time it for right before tourist season is up and swinging (after all, we do have a reputation to uphold), and although everyone would have to be hosed off first, the Plaza businesses would probably pick up some customers through all the excitement. The mayor could be the judge, and vendors could sell chocolate pudding and gummy worms to the spectators.
The problem is, the last time I saw the mud in the Plaza it was actually frozen dirt. Apparently, Southern Oregon is much colder than wherever Honey Boo Boo was when competing in her belly-flopping contest. Personally, I don't see myself wallowing in frozen mud (I just like the green versions that I put on my face), but I think that as long as there are the same kinds of hardy souls willing to swim and surf at the Oregon Coast, we can certainly find someone wanting to play in the thawed-out mud. Photographs of the winners would make an excellent contribution to the time capsule being placed underneath the new Plaza.
I'm sure the finished project will be great, just like the previous versions of the Plaza also have all been great. Any place with trees and benches is bound to be fairly pleasant and beautiful. The project is supposed to be done soon, but that's no reason not to have some fun in the meantime.
Zoe Abel may not be the kind of girl who swims when at the Oregon Coast, but she's also willing to let a little mud get tracked into her car. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.