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What's the deal with local dog parks?

Since moving here three years ago, I've been disappointed in the dog parks in the Medford area. When Hawthorne Park was renovated, they put in a nice dog park for big dogs and a tiny one for smaller dogs, with no grass. Bear Creek Park's small-dog area is not very nice, and it's not the best area either. The gates don't even latch. I have traveled to the dog park in Ashland, which is nice, but the small-dog section is tiny. I moved from the Sacramento area where we had many nice dog parks. Do you know of any decent dog parks, or if there are others opening in the area?

— Valerie D., Medford

Sacramento does have a great reputation for dog parks and is listed in the top 100 on a few dog-park rating websites. It also has a population of close to a half million, while Medford has about 80,000.

"Sacramento really sets the bar pretty high from what we can tell," said Rich Rosenthal, director of Medford Parks and Recreation.

However, for a city the size of Medford, it's somewhat impressive that we've essentially got two dog parks, while many cities in the U.S. have none. On the other hand, keeping in mind that the grass is greener on the other side, some cities have mind-blowing dog parks with water features, rivers and even an ocean at their disposal.

Long-range plans call for more dog parks in the city, at both Donohue-Frohnmayer and Cedar Links.

As to the use of wood fiber in the parks, Rosenthal said the city took into consideration the low maintenance required compared to grass, or the more expensive option of artificial turf.

"I know from being a dog owner that it's easier to clean things off the wood fiber rather than grass," he said.

More dog owners use Bear Creek Park than Hawthorne, even though Bear Creek is considered a temporary dog park. Long-range plans call for some kind of aquatics center at that location.

Rosenthal, who said he would look into the latch issue you raised, Valerie, said Ashland is also planning a second dog park near the YMCA.

As to other dog parks in the area, Rosenthal said he doesn't think there are any nearby.

Even though Sacramento is highly rated, there are other dog parks that get higher ratings, including one on the ocean near Huntington Beach, California, and Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and Dog Park in Richmond, California, with 23 acres where pooches can play.

We could never recommend it, Valerie, but we've heard of some people who find other spots in the valley to take their dogs and let them go off leash and maybe play in the water. Like we said, we'd never recommend it, because there are lots of people who are fearful of dogs and will give you a tongue lashing for being such a bad pet owner.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.