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A garden makeover

Thanks to a generous donation from Ashland resident Jeff Mangin and the family of his late wife, the city will embark on a redesign of the Japanese garden within Lithia Park. The project is an opportunity to transform what is now a Japanese-style garden into one that is more authentic, while preserving the original footprint and existing trees.

Mangin and the Marechal family of Normandy, France, made the donation in memory of his late wife and their daughter, Beatrice Marechal.

The project will be done without having to tap the Parks Department budget, and will be managed by Toru Tanaka, a Portland landscape architect trained in Japan and a former director of the Portland Japanese Garden, which is considered the most authentic outside of Japan. Parks Director Michael Black says public hearings will be held before work begins, and the effort will enlist the assistance of the Japanese Association of Southern Oregon to help ensure the result is culturally authentic and appropriate.

Japanese gardens are meticulously crafted, but in such a way that the result looks natural, not artificial. Accordingly, the existing watercourse will be retained, but reworked so its concrete construction is camouflaged.

The Torii gate installed two years ago with some fanfare turns out to be an inappropriate use of the feature, because such gates traditionally mark the entrance to Shinto holy places not secular gardens.

The project offers the chance to create an added draw to Lithia Park for residents and visitors alike for years to come.