You need never get lost again in Ashland or its mountain environs, thanks to a definitive map, now published in both the rainproof hard copy and the app available at the App Store on your phone or computer. 

The map is actually seven maps, starting with, of course, the street map of Ashland, but extending in scope to take in the approved watershed trail system in the hills south of town. It details Lithia Park, Grizzly Peak and its hiking trail, the Wilderness Areas of Mt. McLoughlin and Sky Lakes, and the recreational and water supply system of mountain lakes: Emigrant, Hyatt and Howard Prairie. 

Maps of all these places have been published before, but nothing in one place in this amount of detail, says Lea Richards, the city’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst. As the cartographer for the project, she won an award for Best Cartographic Design and Best Public Service from the Northwest GIS Users Group. 

The map is the creation of many people and organizations, spearheaded by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project and city Public Works. Also helping were the city Parks & Recreation Commission, the Bureau of Land Management, Rogue-Siskiyou Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy. 

It’s a response to countless requests by locals and tourists for something to help them find their way around the town, its hills and the regional attractions, says Katharine Flanagan Cato of the Chamber, but also to educate people about the Ashland watershed and the mission of AFR in keeping forests safe and healthy.

“It was created because of the big demand for a great hiking and biking map, from both visitors and locals,” says Cato. “This combination of maps has never been done before. We wanted to be able to help folks find their way around the foothills. The key point is showing the fine balance of stewardship and management of water.” 

Project A took the completed map and, in response to demand for it to be available in your pocket on trails, applied it to an app, downloadable free, says Jim Teece, executive director. 

“The question kept coming up, 'is it going to be digital?' for people who don’t want to carry a physical map around, so we converted it to digital. It’s part of our way of giving back to the community. It talks about the watershed, wildfires and the AFR plan, so when visitors come, they understand the connection between the city and the forests around us.” 

Teece says his hike-loving son takes extra copies of the map to give out to hikers in the hills when they stop him to ask for directions. 

“It’s great for outdoor enthusiasts or anyone, showing the great hikes in our backyard, in detail, with lots of photos,” he notes. 

The map will be put out in a second edition this year, he adds, showing recommended routes for hikes that involve multiple trails. The new map will also show changes in RVTD bus routes. 

The map has the advantage of using LADAR (Light Detection and Ranging) from fly-overs by the Forest Service, which, says Richards, are extremely accurate. They are also expensive but Ashland managed to obtain them without cost, she adds. 

The watershed map has many gaps in well-used trails if they are not approved by the Forest Service or cross private land, where owners don’t consent, she said. Many trails are under review and will be changing. 

Richards, a 2001 geography graduate of Southern Oregon University, said it was “pretty exciting” to get her awards for the map and she’s happy it integrated so much information about wildlife and the environment.

The map is free at Chamber, outdoor stores, running store, bike shops and city hall.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.