Posted: 2:00 AM June 10, 2011
Ashland has been named to the Top 10 "Best Towns in America" by Outside Magazine, which is asking the public to vote for the one, best-ever "dream town" that offers the best access to outdoor recreation, along with "culture, perfect scenery and stress-free and reasonable cost of living."
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce is urging people to get on the magazine's Facebook page and vote for Ashland during the three-week contest, noting that the winning town will grace the October cover of the publication, with all the prestige and economic benefits the come from being named "Best Town Ever."
"It's a great way to showcase Ashland for its outdoor attractions and beautiful landscape — and to put us on the map for other reasons than our cultural amenities," said Katharine Flanagan of the Chamber.
Outside last year recognized Ashland as one of the top trail-running cities in America and, said Hal Koerner of Rogue Valley Runners, such notoriety in the "best of" articles (it has placed in the poll before) may trigger more traffic and growth but "it will be the right kind of traffic and growth, because this is a discerning town and we're far away from big-city complexities.
"It's not a call to get everyone in the world here tomorrow," he said. "We do responsible growth here. Ashland has quality — the best attributes of a big city, without the downside — and a lot of cities (in the poll) don't have that. We have good weather, outgoing people and easy access (to outdoor activities) without the crowds."
Tia Boddington, editor of UltraRunning Magazine, moved her publication here from Denver in large part because of great running trails and Ashland's other pluses and says, "Ashland absolutely deserves to be on that list."
Boddington says such fame is a "mixed blessing," but is mostly positive, with more people and more boost to the local economy. It also creates the necessity for the trails and rivers to be better maintained for recreation and could nudge housing costs, which remain "quite affordable in the valley, though maybe not in Ashland." She adds, "I moved here for the running, bicycling, skiing, climbing, all of it — and Ashland would be a good choice for Best Ever Town because it's not just the outdoor lifestyle; it's also the restaurants, university, so much intellectual activity, great food and lots of music. Once you get through playing outside, you can dress up and go have fun."
Outside is the most influential general interest magazine for outside activities, said John Baxter of United Bicycle Institute in Ashland and, its lauding of Ashland is a "good thing ... though Ashland is already on the map for biking" since the Mount Ashland Super Downhill Race "brought a lot of industry types and generated a lot of press."
Baxter says there's no bad effect from making "best of" lists, as "it spurs the economy ... and might cause substantial economic growth from cycle-related companies moving to Ashland."
For the past 15 years, the magazine's editors have voted the Top 10 list, but this time will let the public name the best town on its Facebook, with the winner not only being on the cover but featured on Outside TV. Readers are invited to post comments, photos and videos.
The other towns being voted on are Portland, Ore., Portland, Me., Boulder, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., Tucson, Ariz., Burlington, Vt., Madison, Wisc., Charleston, S.C. and Chattanooga, Tenn.
"This is Outside's first major social media contest and we are expecting a heated debate from our followers — in addition to extensive buzz surrounding this wildly-popular topic," said Jen Wittman, Outside's director of marketing, in a news release. "This is a great program to demonstrate strength of our multimedia brand and engage active-lifestyle enthusiasts nationwide in a fun competition. I am hoping for some crazy stunts from our athletes, personalities and tourism boards from the top ten towns as they work to get the attention of our editors."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's the link to FaceBook.