The Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion

"Few places in North America offer the physical and biological complexity of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion. It is one of those places that can evoke breathtaking awe, humility, and never-ending curiosity.


The Klamaths are a patchwork of folded, faulted, intruded, metamorphosed rocks, where continental and oceanic plates collided, resulting in a richly embellished landscape of diverse geological formations. The oceanic floor makes a different kind of bedrock which makes a different kind of soil, high in metals and low in calcium. These unique soils required special plant adaptations, creating endemic flora found nowhere else on Earth.

The botanical and animal diversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion earned it recognition by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the three top conifer biomes in the world. Current controversy regarding mining and timber harvesting has brought many of our ways of perceiving the human/nature interaction to question." -- Art R. Kruckeberg and Frank A. Lang, Siskiyou Field Institute


"As we shift from seeing humans as dominators of nature to seeing ourselves as a keystone species in co-creation with nature, many of our choices will also shift, allowing for a greater field of the possible." – Shaktari Belew


History (the popular version)

Prior to the arrival of settlers in mid-1800s, Shasta Indians lived in the valley along the creek approximately where Ashland is located.  By the early 1850s, the Donation Land Act brought many white settlers into the Rogue Valley and in conflict with its native people. These often violent clashes continued until 1856.


When gold was discovered near Jacksonville in 1851, an influx of settlers arrived, eventually establishing a lumber mill and fledgling town at Ashland Creek. The community grew during the 1860s and 1870s.  In 1872 the Ashland Academy was founded, eventually becoming Southern Oregon University.


From 1887 to 1926, Ashland thrived on the primary rail line between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco.   In 1908, the Women's Civic Improvement Club petitioned for the creation of a park at Ashland Creek.  It was eventually named Lithia Park, and was designed by landscape architect John McLaren, famous for his design of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. 


In 1935, Angus L. Bowmer arranged the first performances of what would become the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The festival grew during the 1900s, and is now the oldest Shakespear Festival in the United States.

Recent historic growth can be tracked viewing this animated map.


Institutions and cultural events


Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Ashland is well-known for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which brings thousands of visitors to the city every year. The festival has grown from a summer outdoor festival in the 1930s to a season which stretches from February through October, incorporating Shakespeare and non-Shakespearean plays in repertory at three theaters. OSF sells more tickets to more performances of more plays than any other theater in the country. In a typical year, OSF sells more than 350,000 tickets and attracts about 100,000 tourists.


National Fish and Wildlife Laboratory

The National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, located in Ashland, is the world's only crime lab dedicated to wildlife, and serves law enforcement worldwide.


Lithia Park

Lithia Park is a 100 acre (0.4 km²) park extending from the center of town ("The Plaza") up Ashland Creek to the foothills of Mount Ashland. It includes two ponds, a Japanese garden, tennis courts, two public greens, a bandshell (outdoor stage) and miles of hiking trails.   The Ashland City Band is the oldest continuous city band in the United States, having formed as the Ashland Brass Band in 1876.


Science Works Museum

Just 4 years old, Science Works is a perfect example of the community coming together and creating a resource center for children of all ages.  Modeled after the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Science Works hosts 50,000 visitors each year.  In a town of barely 20,000 – that is no small feat.  Thriv’In and Science Works intend to collaborate closely as we provide our community with leading edge research and hands-on learning.



The Ashland School District oversees three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school.  In 2001, Offspring Magazine named Ashland public schools as one of the top 100 school districts in the country.  In 2004, School Match awarded the District its What Parents Want Award, an honor earned by only 16% of all schools in the United States.  Both organizations noted that Ashland schools are consistently strong on state and national assessments, have a competitive pay scale for teaching staff, are above average on instructional expenditures per student, and are known for small class size.


Unique to the Ashland area, is a focus on the environment, demonstrated by the presence of two specialized schools highlighted below. Although they serve a small handful of students each year, these schools indicate the strong inclination within the entire community to support programs like the Thrivability Institute. We envision our programs as a deeply integrated resource for all area schools.


Wilderness Charter School  - The mission of the Wilderness Charter School is to study and practice community, self-reliance, and ecological connection with the intention of creating a sustainable future.  Wilderness School students start and end the year with an extended wilderness experience. These trips are designed to bring students and teachers together as a community, to teach basic backpacking skills, first aid, botany, and geology, and to help prepare students to meet the challenges of the coming year.

John Muir School - John Muir School opened its doors in September of 2006.  A magnate school focusing on natural science and arts, John Muir serves 75 children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Children achieve the standards and acquire the knowledge mandated by the State of Oregon through experiential based education including workshops, peer collaboration, independent investigation and concept construction.


Colleges and Universities


Southern Oregon University (SOU) - a public four-year university, offers programs in science and liberal arts. It has an enrollment of approximately 5000 students, and offers graduate programs in business, education, arts, and sciences.


Rogue Community College (RCC) - By the end of the 2004-05 school year, approximately 14,380 students had enrolled at RCC. That number represented the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 4,212 students. Based on regional population demographics, continued growth is expected. 060905




Ashland has been selected by ICF as one of the top 21 finalists from around the world with the potential to become one of the Forum's Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year 2007.

As of the census GR2 of 2000, there are 19,522 people in the city organized into 8,537 households, and 4,481 families. The population density is 1,159.6/km² (3,003.1/mi²). There are 9,050 housing units at an average density of 537.6/km² (1,392.2/mi²).


Ashland is currently undergoing a large demographic change as more and more retirees relocate to the Rogue Valley. Housing costs have risen drastically, pricing many families out of the Ashland market. In the past few years, Ashland has had to close two of its elementary schools due to under enrollment.  At the same time home schooled students have increased dramatically.  (See diagram above.)


Jackson County, Oregon had a population that was estimated at 195,322 in 2005. The total population has increased sharply, from the population in the year 2000 of 181,866. This growth signifies an increase of 7.4 percent. Jackson ranks 5 of 36 counties in terms of population growth in Oregon and the county ranks 261 of 3,141 counties when calculating the total change in county population across the US.



Income from tourism comprises a significant portion of Ashland's economy.  Visitors and participants to Thriv’In will naturally contribute to that economic base.  Many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and even private homes serve tourist housing needs; while Ashland’s unusually high number of gourmet restaurants contribute to their gustatory pleasure.


Tourism has been a stabilizing influence on Ashland’s economic health and sets it apart from other Oregon towns. Over 358,427 visitors come to Ashland annually. We have experienced a shift in our market area that has created a regional market from Northern California to Eugene. Highly educated on the whole, over 60% of our visitors hold either Bachelors, Graduate or Professional degrees. Visitors’ median age is 40-49, with 42.3% of them over 50 years old. Visitors are taking shorter, more frequent vacations, couples are traveling without children, most come from California, Oregon and Washington, and over 80% are repeat visitors. 


The town's five largest employers are (in order) Southern Oregon University, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland Public Schools, Ashland Community Hospital and the City of Ashland.


The median income for a household in the city is $32,670, and the median income for a family is $49,647. Males have a median income of $36,825 versus $30,632 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,292. 19.6% of the population and 12.5% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 22.0% of those under the age of 18 and 8.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Ashland's city-owned electronic company moved to improve the city's Broadband Internet access in 1999 by creating the Ashland Fiber Network (AFN), which built a $8.5 million fiber optic ring inside the city boundaries. This supports 3,700 cable modem customers (an estimated three-quarters of the market).  This level of foresight and dedication to quality of life is unusual for such a small town, but is simply another example of the fresh thinking inherent in the Ashland approach to life.


In Jackson County, Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, Management of companies and enterprises and Retail Trade industries, in terms of United States location quotient, are the most dominant in the region. The Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry has a US LQ in the county of 3.63. The percent of employment in the Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector is 3.63 times greater than the national average, signifying that Jackson may be an exporter of products or services of Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.



Recreational Amenities Abound

Mt. Ashland Ski Resort, Valley Orchards, Rogue River, Shakespearean Festival, lakes, Crater Lake National Park, Peter Britt Music Festival, Emigrant Lake Reservoir, Ashland Ice Rink, Valley of the Rogue State Park, Stewart State Park, Casey State Park, Rogue River National Forest, Klamath National Forest and Rogue River Round-Up.


CULTURAL CREATIVES and LOHAS in Ashland and Surrounds

As of the year 2000, there are 50 million adults in the United States who have the worldview, values and lifestyle of the Cultural Creatives. (There are probably about 80-90 million Cultural Creatives in the European Union as well.) There seem to be several pivotal CC and LOHAS-oriented cities within the US.  One of the smallest yet consistently mentioned seems to be Ashland, Oregon.


A perfect example of this is the number of local volunteers at Mediation Works, a non-profit dedicated to providing accessible and peaceful means of conflict resolution to the community .  Not only have 101 people been trained to act as community mediators (on their own time and without pay), but 72 were actively used in 2005, providing 5,228 hours of quality mediation.  


Oregon Sierra Club has approximately 22,000 members.


Greenbook with Heart – Rogue Valley 26,000 distribution

"As Founder and Publisher of The Green Book -- Directory of Business With Heart for 13 years, I have seen many changes, especially in the growing numbers of our faithful readers and the increase of conscious small business owners. Some call us the "Cultural Creatives." Labels aside, consumers and business owners are recognizing the desire to deal with like-minded folks who value the old-fashioned values of honesty, craftsmanship, and community involvement. We seek a business for whom "service and integrity" are words to live by and not just "marketing hype."--Larissa, Owner/Publisher


Ashland is a pretty, small town, filled with passionate people. This community fosters curiosity, creativity and communication. Our school district is rated one of the top 100 districts in the country. Walk down the street and look people in the eye or communicate with someone half a world away with AFN, high speed internet access. Our progressive and active business community cultivates big city amenities which locals and visitors enjoy alike. Ashland...Come really live your life.”


Shop N' Kart and the Ashland Food Co-op carry a huge selection of certified organic and Fair Trade items. But they are not the only ones.  Many local grocery stores carry organic items too. The rousing success of the Growers' Market (a weekly event in Ashland and two nearby communities), featuring organic products only reinforces the perception that Ashland is, indeed, a prime location for the Thrivability Institute.


Oregon Organizations that endorse the EARTH CHARTER:

Center for Appropriate Transport (Eugene)
Center for Watershed and Community Health (Springfield)
Conservation Biology Institute (Corvallis)
Conservation for Central Oregon, The Recycling Team (Bend)
Ecology Center of the Siskiyous (Ashland)
Friends of the Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah (Eugene)
Friends of the Sandy River (Boring)
Headwaters (Ashland)
Klamath Basin Ecosystem Foundation (Klamath Falls)
Native Plant Society of Oregon (Eugene)
Siskiyou Regional Education Project (Cave Junction)
Sitka Center for Art and Ecology (Otis)
Southern Oregon Land Conservancy (Ashland)
Whole Systems Foundation (Jacksonville)
Williams Creek Watershed Council (Williams)
Honoring All Life Foundation (Ashland)


Ashland endorses the Valdez Priciples
By endorsing the Valdez Principles in 1990, the City of Ashland proclaimed its intention to uphold the sanctity of the commons. Thriv’In is the next logical step in fulfilling that ratification, and fits in beautifully with the stated intent of Ashland’s governmental stance regarding the environment.


By endorsing these Principles, we publicly affirm our belief that the City of Ashland, Oregon, has a direct responsibility for the environment. We believe that we must conduct the public's business as responsible stewards of the environment and seek goals only in a manner that leaves the Earth healthy and safe. We believe that the City must not compromise the ability of future generations to sustain their needs.


We recognize this to be a long-term commitment to update our practices continually in light of advances in technology and new understandings in health and environmental science. We intend to make consistent, measurable progress toward the ideal that these principles describe, and to apply them wherever we operate, in a manner consistent with our other obligations under law.


  1. Protection of the Biosphere.
    We will minimize and strive to eliminate the release of any pollutant that may cause environmental damage to air, water, or earth or its inhabitants. We will safeguard habitats in creeks, ponds, wetlands, natural areas, and will minimize contributing to global warming, depletion of the ozone layer, acid rain, or smog.
  2. Sustainable Use of Natural Resources.
    We will make sustainable use of renewable natural resources, such as water, soils and forests. We will conserve nonrenewable natural resources through efficient use and careful planning. We will protect wildlife habitat, open spaces, and wilderness, while preserving biodiversity.
  3. Reduction and Disposal of Waste.
    We will minimize the creation of waste, and wherever possible, recycle materials. We will dispose of all wastes through safe and responsible methods.
  4. Wise Use of Energy.
    We will make every effort to use environmentally safe and sustainable energy sources to meet our needs. We will invest in and promote energy efficiency and conservation in our operations and that of our citizens.
  5. Risk Reduction.
    We will minimize the environmental, health and safety risks to our employees and the communities in which we operate by employing safe technologies and operating procedures and by being constantly prepared for emergencies.
  6. Safe Products and Services.
    We will provide services that minimize adverse environmental impacts and that are safe for consumers. We will inform consumers of the environmental impacts of our services.
  7. Damage Compensation.
    We will take responsibility for any harm we cause to the environment by making every effort to fully restore the environment and to compensate those persons who are adversely affected.
  8. Disclosure.
    We will disclose to our employees and to the public incidents relating to our operations that cause environmental harm or pose health or safety hazards. We will disclose potential environmental, health, or safety hazards posed by our operations, and we will not take any action against employees who report any condition that creates a danger to the environment or poses health and safety hazards.
  9. Environmental Directors and Managers.
    At least one member of management will be a person qualified to represent environmental interests, and will commit management resources to implement these Principles.
  10. Annual Assessment.

We will conduct and make public an annual self-evaluation of our progress in implementing these Principles and in complying with all applicable laws and regulations.
Endorsed by the Ashland City Council - May 15, 1990.