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Jacksonville gets its first dog park

Jacksonville Mayor Paul Becker will recognize volunteers and highlight a community-wide effort this weekend during a grand-opening ceremony for Jacksonville’s first dog park.

“It’s an example of what government can do and what government can’t do,” said Becker. “The volunteers have the passion; government may have the tools.”

Located on about a half-acre next to the town’s skate park, the site is reached from the large parking lot behind the library next to Jackson Creek. Becker will speak at the 9 a.m. grand-opening, and John Parrott, a dog trainer, will discuss dog park etiquette.

Waggin’ Tails Inc., a group formed in 2017 to create a park, raised much of the funding for the park, supplied volunteer labor for its construction and has committed to handle maintenance of the facility. City officials had said they’d welcome a park if land could be found but that the city was already busy managing other park sites.

“People are calling it a boutique dog park. We didn’t just throw a fence out there,” said group president Sarah Maple. “We have a true park. It has shade trees. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Separate areas for large and small dogs are incorporated. A roadway down to the park was paved to meet ADA requirements. There’s one regular and one ADA parking spot right by the park.

Two water fountains were installed with special accommodations for dog use. There are two benches and landscaping with drip irrigation. A small structure was built to house tools.

Fir chips cover the surface. The chips produce fewer splinters than other options, so there’s less concern about dog pad slivers, Maple said. The chips also abate odors better.

The park project had a budget of $110,000, said group Treasurer Jill Zan. That included monetary contributions, in-kind donations and some but not all of the volunteer labor.

A dog park in the city has been sought for at least a decade. When Maple helped to start the project in 2017, her husband, Darrell, a former city manager in Alaska, California and Washington, told her to anticipate three to five years to get the job done.

A proposal for a park on city land in the eastern part of town was rejected last summer because of neighbors’ concerns and wetland issues. That’s when the Waggin’ Tails group again looked at the current site, which had been studied before. Jacksonville City Council gave the go-ahead to proceed with the project in July 2018.

“It turned out the area is the only unused, designated park area in Jacksonville,” said Maple. “We just needed to go back to that area. It just made sense to do it there.”

Becker praised Maple and the group’s efforts.

“She’s thorough. She knows how to plan and know how to get everything laid out. When questions come up, she’s got the answer. She’s able to get people motivated,” said Becker.

Maple is quick to give credit to the organization’s officers and to the volunteer work force, led by her husband. A lot of the volunteer labor was supplied by Glen Baylor, Mike Zan and Jeff McFarland, she said.

“Darrel spearheaded it and also did a lot of the work. His volunteers were awesome and easy to work with,” said Max Woody, city public works project manager.

City crews helped move and place rocks and loaned equipment, including cement mixers. They also handled installation of a water meter, water lines, the fountains and a water hydrant.

Work started in March and went through May. Paving and fence installation were contracted out.

The Robert Raymond Foundation of Jacksonville gave $15,000 toward the effort. Another $10,000 came from a trust established by Raymond’s sister. Businesses around the valley also contributed, as did local organizations, including the Jacksonville Boosters Club and the Masonic Lodge, and citizens. City government gave the organizations $24,000 from its system development fees to help with expenses.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.