Beach Street walk
by Peter Finkle
In addition to highlights of my Beach Street walk, you will read stories here about my up-close and personal encounter with the “Beach Street bear” and about the humans of Beach Street whom I encountered during my walk. Here is a sight that I believe is unique to Beach Street.
Beach Street has imposing trees, interesting people, a former elementary school with a large open space, and proximity to many of the pleasures of Ashland.
This is my first “Walk Ashland” blog post, and it is about Beach Street. Why? Because I have lived on Beach Street for 27 years.
Walking Beach Street on Saturday April 7, 2018, here is what I saw and heard, people I met, plus garden, nature, animal, historical and architectural highlights.
Beach Street starts at Siskiyou Blvd and ends uphill at the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains. You’ll find a mix of modest homes, large homes, apartments and condos as you walk Beach Street. The street has open space at Lincoln School, plus many large Ponderosa pines, firs and oaks.
The “Beach Street Bear”
I saw five deer on my walk, but more interesting than deer is the “Beach Street bear,” which even had its photo in the Ashland Daily Tidings in 2006. I have two “Beach Street bear” stories to tell you here.
The sad story involves a black bear and a beautiful large orange koi fish (see photo below taken by our neighbor in May 2015). The bear was doing what bears love to do…go fishing, in this case in my backyard pond.
“Beach Street bear” with a koi
A Warm Summer Evening Bear Encounter
My other bear story was dramatic in a different way. On a warm summer evening in 2006 shortly after the Daily Tidings article, I was stretched out in a lounge chair in my back yard reading the newspaper. Our cuddly, chunky female cat GG was stretched out half-asleep next to me. Ah, a nice relaxing Ashland summer evening.
Suddenly I saw a 5′ tall, 200 pound or so black bear climb over the low side-yard fence 35 feet away from me – way too close – and it was no longer a relaxing summer evening. I stood up, holding the newspaper. Then the bear saw me. It stood up. GG-cat took off running back to the house cat door faster than she had ever run in her entire life. My wife happened to be at the screen door nearest the bear when it appeared, so she started yelling at the bear. Meanwhile, I backed away slowly, newspaper in hand.
Fortunately, the bear was as afraid of us as we were of it, so it shot up the nearest tree. After looking around from its perch ten feet up, it decided to leave, and lumbered off through two neighbors’ yards to Liberty Street and presumably uphill to the forest.
My Neighbor Brad’s Bear Story
Speaking of bears, during my walk I met my neighbor Brad as he was “playing with rocks,” – as he put it – building a no-mortar rock retaining wall. We were discussing how all of upper Beach Street a century ago was likely a farm and orchard. He told me about his old cherry and apple trees, and then declared his frustration with a bear that keeps crushing his chain-link fence in order to get in and enjoy the cherries each summer.
Changing the subject from bears to angels, I met Nina as I was admiring her front yard full of angel sculptures.
Nina told me a “small world” story. Decades ago, she worked as an intern for six months at Presidio Hill School in San Francisco. When her new neighbor moved in recently, they found something in common. The new neighbor had followed Nina as an intern at Presidio Hill School, but then stayed on the staff for 40 years…before retiring to Ashland, right next door to Nina!
Nina lives near Lincoln School, which was built in 1926. The elementary school was originally used for the teacher training program at Southern Oregon State Normal School (now SOU) one block away. Due to declining elementary school enrollment, Lincoln was closed in 2006, but is still owned by the school district.
On the edge of the Lincoln School grounds, I saw two young men with a slack line tied between two trees. I stopped to talk, and found out that Bryant was teaching his friend David how to walk a slack line.
Do You Recognize the “Fortmiller” Name?
Up the street a bit, I met someone with a name that Ashland “old-timer” readers will recognize: Fortmiller. I met Lisa Beach (formerly Lisa Fortmiller), the owner of A Midsummer’s Dream Bed & Breakfast at 496 Beach Street. Her parents owned Fortmillers Department Store in downtown Ashland, at the current location of Earthly Goods. She remembers being able to pick her favorite clothes off the racks as a child.
Lisa left Ashland for 35 years, then moved back to run the beautiful B&B. The five bedrooms are all charming. Each comes with a marble fireplace, a relaxing spa tub and an elegant glass block shower. The B&B was created in 2001 by restoring a 1901 Victorian farm house where the family that owned the old Beach Street farm/orchard had lived.
Some things change…like the old farm house becoming a new B&B.
Some things don’t change…like Lisa (Fortmiller) Beach still having the same reserved seats at Ashland High School football games that have been in her family for 50 years.
Here is my favorite garden highlight of the walk, beautiful daffodils, which the deer have left alone for us to enjoy.
I hope you have enjoyed this story. Please sign up to receive an email each time I post a new story as I walk every street in Ashland.
I will close with a poem I wrote about Beach Street.
Beach Street is not by the sand
or even near the beach.
Named after Ashland pioneer
Henry Beach Carter, it is near
Southern Oregon University,
where thousands of students – and
their teacher/mentors – share
with Beach Street residents and the community
inspiring music, art, sports and learning.
To the north, Beach Street ends at
Siskiyou Boulevard and
Ashland High School,
where young actors, athletes and adults
are shaped and forged.
To the south, Beach Street ends at the
Siskiyou Mountain range,
where mountain hikers and mountain bikers
find a paradise to explore.
Actors, doctors, students, families, business people
and more all share Beach Street with
deer, bears, raccoons and
massive trees full of squirrels and jays.
Peter Finkle April 7, 2018