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Monday, June 27, 2011

We didn't even know we were part of the problem...

As I shared recently, I attended my high school reunion. That event took place in Ashland, Oregon. Though born in Grants Pass, Oregon, I spent my early youth in southern California. The Artesia and Lakewood districts of sprawling Los Angeles. My family moved back to southern Oregon, to Ashland, just before I entered the sixth grade.

Those were good years. It was a nice town with considerable interest. A college town. A tourist destination. At the heart of the town is Lithia Park. The park extends from the town plaza up a narrow little valley, and is centered on Ashland Creek. Indeed, most of your time visiting the park will be spent walking along paths beside this fast running stream.

When I attended my reunion I intentionally parked near the top of the park. I had to walk the length of the park back to town, and back through the park when I left the reunion. It was a nostalgic journey, and a very pleasant one. Much was the same. Many long standing landmarks and features were either the same as I remembered or somewhat improved.

One of my recollections of childhood in Lithia Park was running on the unmarked and unofficial trails. These were steep trails, and one of the pleasures was to slide down the steep paths like dry trail skiers. Our skis were tennis shoes, and the 'snow' was the sliding surface of the hillsides.

Those trails are closed. Some are fenced to deny access. There are signs encouraging visitors to stay on the marked and official paths. The free-form adventuring of the past had caused erosion, damaging the park we so loved. In those long-ago days it did not occur to us that we were part of a problem. We were hurting something we greatly valued, and didn't see it at all.

I am sad to see the loss of such freedom, but recognize and accept the necessity of doing so to protect the park. It is a beautiful park, and worth preserving. Young people will simply have to find other adventures to share in building their young lives. I am sure that they will.

I wonder if the college has unofficial adventures in urban spelunking still available? That was fun, too.

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