MEDIAN AGE: 43
MEDIAN ANNUAL SALARY: $38,436
MEDIAN HOME VALUE: $393,300
TOTAL VOTES: 1,154 (5.3%)
It isn’t for a lack of Californians hoping to move in that Ashland has managed to stay small. There just isn’t room. Penned in between the Cascade and Siskiyou ranges in the south end of the Rogue Valley, this Golden State border city has clung to its Northwest roots through sheer, stunning geography. Home prices are hefty, but residents rarely travel more than an hour to find clean rivers, lonely trails, or expert skiing. The 88 Napa-style wineries downvalley have attracted yuppies but also culinary variety in the form of 80 restaurants offering everything from sushi to seven variations of French cuisine. One of them, Chateaulin, is a favorite after-performance spot for actors from the city’s renowned Shakespeare festival.
Staying Power: In 1973, the town passed a law forcing cars to share Main Street with bikes. Thirty years ago, residents voted yes to a no-big-box-store ordinance. And last year they increased the lodging tax by 2 percent to support cultural happenings like the Ashland Independent Film Festival, one of 20 annual events that range from a chocolate fest to mountain-bike races. Growth has been hampered by the recession, but smart startups like Dagoba Organic Chocolate, the bike-mechanic college United Bicycle Institute, and even a smattering of software and tech firms have helped increase job prospects.
Playgrounds: Lift access to Mount Ashland’s 45-degree slopes is 20 miles south of town, mountain bikers and runners connect to the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest trail from a dozen in-town trailheads, and road bikers can easily get lost on the back roads in wine country. For paddlers and fly-fishermen, the Klamath, the Rogue, and the Illinois rivers are an easy drive away.
The Voters Speak: “The entire town is walkable.” “Which do you prefer: life at 100 miles per hour or 100 smiles per hour?” “Where else can you catch a beautiful rainbow trout by day, then catch a Shakespeare play by night?”