Often referred as the crown jewel of Ashland, Lithia Park, which last year marked its 100th year as a city park, will be the subject of a new master plan to help guide the city in managing the 93 acres of land over the next 100 years.

“We are not trying to re-envision the park,” said Michael Black, Parks and Recreation director. “The Master Plan is a guide on how to maintain the park in its current state.”

The Master Plan process, kicking off this week on Wednesday, Dec. 6, will produce an analysis of the assets and the issues in Lithia Park, which will help guide the city in keeping up the landmarks and functionality of the park over the next 100 years.

The city gave the $230,000 master plan contract to Portland-based consultant firm MIG, Inc. and other subcontracters, including the local landscape architect KenCairn Associates, in August.

“I’m confident in the team we have assembled to work on the master plan,” Black said. “It’s an honor for me to be a part of the master plan that will shape the park for the next 100 years.”

The current master plan, developed a century ago, includes donkey rides and car camping — things that are long gone from the park. It also doesn’t address current issues, such as the deterioration of the Perozzi Fountain, the much-vandalised Abe Lincoln statue (relegated to storage due to the indignities) and the lack of adequate parking spots for the disabled, Black said.

“The head (of the statue) is still in my office,” Black laughed when asked about the condition of the statue after it was taken down. “This will also be one of the things we look into in this process.”

Besides tackling the immediate issues at the park, the team will also sketch out guidelines to accommodate issues expected to arise over the next century. APRC purposefully delayed some projects at the park in anticipation of completion of the master plan, APRC Commissioner Mike Gardiner said.

“We were looking at building a sidewalk along Winburn (Way) to accommodate dogs — right now they are not allowed in the park,” Gardiner said. “This process will review that project so we can proceed accordingly.”

Other potential projects include the expansion of the the Japanese Garden, Gardiner said.

The project is currently divided into four phases, with numerous scheduled opportunities for public input, the proposed plan shows.

Ashland residents can voice their opinions about the master plan from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the “listening post” in the Siskiyou Room, Ashland Public Works Department, 51 Winburn Way.

Lithia Park has a long and intertwined history with the city of Ashland.

First established in 1892 following the Chautauqua movement, Lithia Park grew in size and significance in Ashland over time. The city of Ashland appointed the first five-member Parks Commission in 1909, after the Women's Civic Improvement Club urged Lithia Park to be included in the City Charter the previous year.

In 1914, John McLaren, designer of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, was commissioned to make landscape improvements, shaping the Lithia Park as it is today.

Today, 42 of Lithia Park’s 93 acres are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

MIG, a Portland-based firm, won the bidding process against Walker Macy Landscape Architect and Cameron McCarthy Landscape Architecture & Planning in June this year. The firm has numerous experience in master planning projects related to park and trail design, historic places and natural resources, including the Luscher Farm Master Plan in Lake Oswego, the Dorris Ranch in Springfield and the Yosemite National Park, its proposal states.

"Our team is honored to be helping the community envision what the next 100 years will look like,” Project Manager Laurie Matthews said in the proposal, “To that end, we are not focused on proposing major new changes, but enhancing what resonates and changing things that will benefit the character and health of the park.”

The master plan will be follow the seven goals presented to the City Council in August, including consideration of infrastructure, circulation, interface and environment, aesthetics, parks policy and usage.

The project is currently divided in four phases. Phase 3, which includes a Design Week, will develop concepts for Lithia Park “in a transparent open studio process” in Ashland, where residents are encouraged to “drop in” to observe the design team in action at any time.

“We will be working to steer the project the next 18 months,” Gardiner said. “And the public are welcome to join in anytime during that process.”

“By the end of this, we hope to have a comprehensive analysis on both Lithia Park and the public input about the park,” Black said.

— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on twitter at @nguyenntrann.

(Dec. 5: Story updated to correct a photo caption. The creek is Ashland Creek, not Lithia Creek.)