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OSF asks for removal of fountain, planter from square where homeless gather

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The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is asking the city of Ashland to get rid of the fountain and the planter box in front of the Black Swan Theatre at the corner of Main and Pioneer streets to open up the space and ease congestion.Jamie Lusch
 Posted: 5:05 PM July 10, 2014

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has asked the city of Ashland to remove a broken fountain and a cement planter from a small plaza in front of the Black Swan Theatre downtown where panhandlers often gather.

The intent is to open up the area to allow more organized activities in the space, which is called Chautauqua Square, said OSF Executive Director Cynthia Rider.

The city-owned fountain on the OSF-controlled site has been broken for many years and holds no water. City officials estimated repairs would cost $10,000 to $15,000.

A city planter along the sidewalk at the corner of Main and Pioneer streets is a favorite sitting area for homeless people, travelers, panhandlers and musicians.

Pedestrians walking on the sidewalk pass between a larger OSF planter on one side and the city planter, which borders Main Street.

"There's a traffic congestion problem," Rider told Ashland city councilors earlier this month when asking for removal of the planter and fountain. "It narrows there and forces groups of people into a small, narrow space."

City officials have no immediate plans to remove the planter or fountain. Councilors would likely weigh in on the matter, Ashland Finance and Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg said this week.

City crews could tear out the planter and fountain themselves. But if councilors want the fountain to be removed whole so it can be used elsewhere, the city likely would need to hire someone else to do that work, City Administrator Dave Kanner said.

Rider said panhandling activity is intermittent at Chautauqua Square.

"It can be a problem. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't," she said this week. "It seems to fluctuate. One concern we have is the space is not being used optimally. Sometimes there's nothing going on there."

OSF has suggested a variety of activities for the square, such as a food cart, coffee cart, musicians and mini-performances.

Rider said OSF welcomes suggestions from the community.

"There are not a lot of good activities there to make it more active. Our goal is to make it a lot more welcoming and inviting," she said.

€' Vickie Aldous

Read more in the Daily Tidings on Friday.

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