Work has begun to expand the Mt. Ashland Ski Area's parking lot before the start of the winter ski season.
Crews cut trees on Tuesday to make way for the project. Excavation work was expected to begin today, according to Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark.
Ski area employees are doing most of the work except for paving of the parking lot, he said.
The project will take four to five weeks, with work going on 11 hours per day every day of the week, Clark said.
The parking lot expansion will add 101 parking spaces to a lot that overflows on busy days at the ski area.
Ski area officials are still awaiting permission from Jackson County and the U.S. Forest Service to use dirt from the parking lot excavation to re-contour the Sonnet beginner's ski run to give it a more gentle, gradual slope, Clark said.
Meanwhile, the Ashland City Council was briefed on the project during a Tuesday night council meeting.
City employees will be monitoring the project to make sure that erosion and sediment control features are properly installed to minimize or eliminate erosion, according to a city staff memo to councilors.
"The city will have a representative on site during all construction activities," Engineering Services Manager Scott Fleury said Tuesday night.
The parking lot expansion area is in the Cottonwood Creek watershed drainage on the back side of Mount Ashland. That area does not drain into the Ashland Watershed.
The Sonnet beginner's ski run is located at the top of the Ashland Creek watershed.
The watershed is home to most of the ski area and the city's drinking water supply.
The city has a $10,000 contract with David Evans & Associates for that firm to review plans to ensure that the projects are designed to protect the watershed. The firm will also be available for onsite inspections, according to a city staff memo to councilors.
Former Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas had opposed the parking lot expansion and ski run re-contouring projects, arguing that they could cause erosion in the Ashland watershed and Cottonwood Creek watershed.
A county hearings officer ruled in August that Navickas lacked legal standing to challenge the projects.
This spring, the Mt. Ashland Ski Area widened several existing ski runs as part of efforts this year to make improvements within the current ski area.
The run widening, parking lot expansion, beginners' hill re-contouring and restoration projects will cost an estimated $250,000.
The Mt. Ashland Association — which runs the nonprofit ski area — has raised $227,294 so far toward that goal and is continuing to seek donations, according to the ski area website.
The ski area has no plans at this time to carry out a major expansion that would include new ski runs and chairlifts.
In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service approved plans for the new ski runs, chairlifts and other additions, which would cost at least $3.5 million.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.