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New Gold Hill bark park gets a party Saturday

GOLD HILL — Just months after they set out on a whim, organizers of the Gold Hill Dog Park will celebrate a grand opening of their new green space from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The event will include a doggy dress-up contest, obedience sessions courtesy of Dogs For the Deaf, licensing, shots, refreshments and the entertaining antics of local canines that have long awaited their own park.

Project coordinators announced their efforts this spring and set out to raise the needed $10,000 for the first phase of the park.

Gold Hill resident Sam Hefter, one of the project's half-dozen organizers, said he was "elated and enchanted" that the group met its goal.

"We got it done, and we got it done in record time," Hefter said.

"I'm excited that the city machinery did not stand in our way for the most part, and all that's left is the grand opening and people giving us high fives. And we even paid for it ourselves."

Hefter said the dog park was funded primarily by donations from residents, businesses, a crowdfunding page and a yard sale. Gold Hill City Council recently voted to provide the final $2,300 for completion.

Shari Mott, a Ray's employee who helped with the effort, placed change containers around town, raising $1,000 toward the effort, and Brie Malarkey of Breeze Botanicals matched the amount raised from the cans.

Tucked inside the city sports park between Highway 234 and the Rogue River, the dog park will eventually be joined by a planned water splash pad. The park already features tennis courts, ball fields and a skate park.

Hefter said the green space has become a favorite destination for him and his four-legged pal of unknown ancestry, which he calls Lucy the dog.

"I go there a lot. I take my mom's favorite folding chair and a cup of coffee and the newspaper, and I sit out there with Lucy the dog, and we contemplate the universe together," Hefter said.

"It's been about a week since we knew we raised all the money, so as soon as I knew it was a done deal, I started going every day. I've not seen another person there yet — hopefully this grand opening will put the word out — so for now it's like anyone who goes will have their very own personal dog park."

Mayor Jan Fish said she was excited to see the citizen-driven project come to fruition.

"It's a great addition for the community," said Fish. "We certainly have a lot of dog lovers in Gold Hill."

Thrilled at the ability of the small group to accomplish such a large project, Hefter teased, "I almost think we could try for a cat park next!"

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com