The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest announced Friday the Ashland Ranger Station will close on May 9 because of a significant reduction in employees there over the past several years. The Forest Service no longer needs the office and warehouse at 644 Washington St., near Exit 14, officials said.
The Forest Service is finalizing an agreement with the city of Ashland to use office space at nearby Ashland Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street beginning on May 14.
Services will be offered Wednesdays from the fire station, Forest Service officials said. Those services will include sales of maps and recreation passes, visitor information and the issuance of permits for special forest products such as firewood, mushrooms and rock for personal use. On other days, services will be available at the Medford Interagency Office, 2040 Biddle Road, Medford, and the Star Ranger Station, located outside Ruch at 6941 Upper Applegate Road.
Under the proposed agreement, Ashland Fire & Rescue will also provide temporary work and meeting space for Forest Service employees, allowing the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District to continue working with the city of Ashland and other partners, Forest Service officials said.
The city, Forest Service and other organizations have worked together for years on projects such as wildfire thinning in the Ashland watershed.
In addition, the city is offering use of an engine bay for a Forest Service wildland fire engine at the fire station during high fire danger months, Forest Service officials said.
Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns said he would like to see the Forest Service's fire engine remain stationed in Ashland during the fire season. If the engine were moved to the Star Ranger Station near Ruch, it would not be able to respond to Ashland quickly, he said.
Karns said fire department and Forest Service employees talk almost every day about thinning in the Ashland watershed. Having key Forest Service personnel work out of the fire station would keep those critical lines of communication open, he said.
A side benefit to sharing space would be that fire department and Forest Service personnel could increase the time they spend training together, Karns said.
Mayor John Stromberg said it's unfortunate the Ashland Ranger Station is closing, but the city and Forest Service are making the best of a difficult situation by cooperating.
"We're really pleased they were able to work out an agreement with the city and are keeping some fire resources and key personnel in Ashland," he said. "We're sorry it's necessary. The Forest Service has been dealing with shrinking budgets."
The changes will support the Forest Service in maintaining an active presence in the city of Ashland and will result in cost savings of $142,500 per year, Forest Service officials said.