A new compass rose mosaic installed this week at North Mountain Park will help people figure out which way is north, south, east and west

A new compass rose mosaic installed this week at North Mountain Park will help people figure out which way is north, south, east and west, and where Ashland fits in among landmarks such as Mount McLoughlin, Upper and Lower Table Rocks, Mount Shasta and Pilot Rock.

Illahe Studios & Gallery owner Sue Springer, who put in the mosaic with a handful of volunteers, said most people orient themselves using roads and Interstate 5, which normally runs north-south. I-5 takes an easterly bent as it approaches Ashland, however, so although many Ashlanders believe Medford is north of town, it is, in fact, to the northwest.

"North and south are confusing. Everyone thinks it's shifted," Springer said.

The mosaic, emblazoned with an ornate capital "N," will orient people to true north. Made of tile, the mosaic has an image of Grizzly Peak, which is to the northeast of Ashland. Mount Ashland, also depicted on the artwork — and like Grizzly Peak, visible from North Mountain Park — is south of town and a touch off to the west.

The volcanic cone of Mount McLoughlin is hidden behind Grizzly Peak, but the mosaic points out its direction. Mount Shasta, concealed by the peaks of the Siskiyou Pass, is away to the southeast, while the Table Rocks outside Medford are to the northwest. The distant ocean is due west.

A closer look at the mosaic reveals tile images of local creatures, including a turtle, fawn, fox, fish, skunk, bear, flicker, red-winged blackbird, turkey vulture, osprey and monarch butterflies. The piece of public art is dotted with pines, Douglas firs and oaks. Plants include Indian paintbrush, Oregon grape and shooting star.

The project got its start back in August, when Springer led a tile and mosaic workshop at her gallery. Although the workshop ended last month, several students returned to help install the mosaic this week at the park.

Returning student Katherine Dron of Ashland, who trained as an architect, said she has to know the cardinal directions and the path of the sun.

"I've had arguments with people about where north is," she said.

As Ashlander Mary Robert set mosaic pieces, she said she appreciated learning about the process from its beginning to the final public art installation.

"I've learned this is a lot of work. It's more than anyone can imagine," she said. "It's fun, though. It's been a wonderful experience."

Talent resident Merike Wallace, who did a whole series of wildflower tiles for the project, agreed, noting, "If you don't follow it through, you don't get the whole experience."

"The whole experience of your legs falling asleep," added Dron, standing up for a break after kneeling on a cushion for a half-hour to work on the ground-level mosaic.

A dedication ceremony for the mosaic is planned at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, at North Mountain Park near the Nature Center and the entrance to demonstration gardens.

The event will be part of the third annual Bear Creek Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on that day. The festival will include mask-making, fly-casting, American Indian demonstrations, live entertainment, information about local watershed stewardship and food from Fulcrum Dining.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.