Ashland’s Lithia Park named a Great Public Space

One of 10 selected nationwide for 2014

By Ian Hand
Ashland Daily Tidings
Posted Oct. 1, 2014 @ 11:59 am
Updated Oct 1, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Ashland’s Lithia Park is one of America’s 10 Great Public Spaces for 2014, the American Planning Association announced Wednesday.
“A public space may be a gathering spot or part of a neighborhood, downtown, special district, waterfront or other area within the public realm that helps promote social interaction and a sense of community,” according to APA guidelines.
The APA also named top-10 lists of Great Streets and Great Neighborhoods for a total of 30 areas nationwide, collectively known as Great Places in America.
The APA’s citation of Lithia Park’s features include its “organic layout” that follows the natural terrain and Ashland Creek; Enders Memorial Gazebo, built in 1916 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the Upper Duck Pond; Butler-Perrozi Fountain; auto camp registration building; Japanese garden and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which began in the park in 1935.
During the celebration and presentation of the honor in Lithia Park Wednesday, Mayor John Stromberg began his speech by asking the residents in attendance to turn away from him to take in the park’s beauty.
“I really want you to experience the magic of this place in this moment,” he said. “I try to get people interested in noticing the moments where quality of life is being created. You just had one where a national organization has connected with what we’re doing here.”
Stromberg then took a moment to recognize other things created in Ashland that have affected the national culture, such as the OSF-commissioned, and Tony Award-winning, “All the Way,” Ashland’s Forest Resiliency Project and the police department’s You Have Options program.
“We have an environment in this little town that creates things with national significance,” he said. “In a culture that thinks bigger is better, we’ve seen that, in this case, smaller is better.”
The award, presented by Central Point’s Community Development Director and Oregon APA board member Tom Humphrey, was accepted by Jeff MacFarland, Dan Merrill and Tom Foster. Parks and Recreation Director Michael Black picked these men to represent the thousands of parks employees and volunteers who have maintained the park and made it what it is today.
“Great places don’t just happen,” Black said. “It takes a vision, good planning, a supportive community and the ability to implement and maintain the space.”
Black dedicated the award to all the people who labored to make Lithia Park a positive, visual and participatory interface between nature and the built environment.
Besides Lithia Park, other Public Space designees for 2014 are Lake Mirror Park, Lakeland, Fla.; Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa; Lincoln Trails Network, Lincoln, Neb.; Delaware Park, Buffalo, N.Y.; Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, Penn.; Point State Park, Pittsburgh, Penns.; Cliff Walk, Newport, R.I.; The Lawn at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.; and Rainier Vista, Seattle, Wash.
APA started naming Great Public Spaces in 2008. Included in the first year’s top-10 list were Central Park, N.Y., and Union Station, Washington, D.C.
Since the Great Places in America launch in 2007, a total of 230 places have been designated. Places honored are considered the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow. Announcements are made each October, National Community Planning Month.
“I think one of the things that this park excels in, and makes it stand out, is how it meets the needs of different types of users,” said Black. “We had a great example today, where we had a group playing ultimate Frisbee in one field while we had our celebration in another.”
The APA is an independent, nonprofit organization that, along with its professional institute, The American Institute of Certified Planners, is dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of community planning. Its goal is to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live.
New this year, APA is seeking public input for a “31st Great Place Designee.” Voting will take place through comments on the APA Facebook Page or by tweeting them with #mygreatplace. The winner will be announced Friday, Oct. 31.
Email reporter Ian Hand at [email protected] or call him at 253-722-4071. Follow him on Twitter at

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