By Vickie Aldous: The winner of the contest will receive $500 and the artist's name will appear on the bottom of the map.

The city is inviting artists to enter a contest to create a cartoon-like map of the Ashland Watershed that will also include some key spots around town. The winner of the contest will receive $500 and the artist's name will appear on the bottom of the map.

The Ashland Forest Lands Commission is sponsoring the contest. The commission develops plans for reducing wildfire risk and increasing the health of city-owned forests, including parcels in the Ashland Watershed.

The U.S. Forest Service has jurisdiction over most of the watershed, although the City of Ashland, The Nature Conservancy and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project are helping the Forest Service design treatments for the federal agency's land.

The map contest is just another step the Ashland Forest Lands Commission has taken to get residents interested in the watershed, which is the source of the city's water. The commission has hosted other events, such as watershed hikes.

Interested artists should e-mail a black-and-white drawing of a map to mapcontest@ashlandwatershed.org. Submissions are due by April 5.

The Forest Lands Commission is asking artists to make their black-and-white drawings on 8.5-inch-by-11-inch pieces of paper. Designs should be horizontal.

The winning artist will create a full-color version of his or her map, which will be used to print up colored 8.5-inch-by-11-inch maps that will be distributed for free to the community.

Map drawings have to include a number of features, including the watershed, Reeder Reservoir, streams leading into the reservoir, the city's water treatment plant, the city-owned Winburn Parcel, spotted owls and other local wildlife, trailhead parking areas and various springs.

Points of interest in and around town that need to be shown include Ashland Fire Station No. 1 and No. 2, Ashland parks and community gardens, Oak Knoll Public Golf Course, the Ashland airport, the Mt. Ashland Ski & Snowboard Resort, the downtown plaza, Main Street, Southern Oregon University and Ashland High School, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's outdoor Elizabethan theater, Ashland Creek and Bear Creek, Emigrant Lake with the Talent Irrigation District line and Interstate 5.

If figuring out where all those places are seems overwhelming, don't worry. You can find a regular map with those places — not done in a cartoon style — at www.ashlandwatershed.org/mapcontest.html.

If you want to see an example of what the Ashland Forest Lands Commission has in mind, you can look at an image of a cartoon-like map of Cave Junction by artist Alan Laurie that is also on that Web site. The information and images you'll need to create your entry in the contest will be posted to the Web site next week.

According to the map contest guidelines, "The actual city of Ashland should be minimized in the drawing and the watershed and other key features should be magnified. Scale and perspective are not important."

While you're on the Internet, stop at www.ashlandwatershed.org. You can learn more about how community members are working with the Forest Service to design, carry out and monitor a 7,600-acre project to thin the Ashland Watershed and conduct prescribed burns to reduce the risk of wildfire.

To a lot of people, the term Ashland Watershed conjures up hazy images of a place somewhere "out there" in the forested hills above town. The map contest represents a fun way to help us all understand how we relate to this vital resource.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings columnist Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.