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Resident has big ideas for dog park improvements

 

July 25, 2017

LARRY WILLETT plays catch with his dog, Calli, at the Sunnyside dog park.

The Sunnyside dog park is pretty good and getting better for dogs, but Larry Willett thinks it could be better – for their owners.

Linn County has already made improvements to the park. Linn County is working on more improvements for the dogs, but Willett would like to make a couple more substantial improvements for their human companions.

The dog park is located at Sunnyside County Park, located off Quartzville Road on the Middle Santiam River near the east end of Foster Lake.

It was built 7 to 10 years ago, said Linn County Parks Director Brian Carroll. The county came by the fencing in 2007 or 2008.

“It was just a kind of an off-leash area for people,” he said.

“I use this as my daily dog park,” said Willett, who visits the park with a shepherd-retriever-Queensland healer mix named Calli. “I come here 360 days a year.”

He has some very specific ideas on what improvements should be made.

Willett has lived in Sweet Home for a year, he said. When he first visited the dog park, the rain puddled up in the dirt parking lot.

He called Linn County and asked if the county could grade the parking lot, he said. Within a couple of months, the county graveled and graded the lot.

The park still needs more, he said. Normally, a dog park has plastic bags available for picking up a dog’s waste. It has water available for dogs to drink, and a sign outlining etiquette for using the park.

He has asked county officials about it, he said, and those items are on the county’s list of projects at the park.

The grounds is uneven, with holes all over the place, Willett said. The county is planning an “ankle breaker audit” and will fill in those holes.

Officials are also looking at some drainage issues, and they’re planning to improve the entrance gates.

“We have been doing work to it,” Carroll said. “And we will continue make improvements.”

Of the projects there, the water and drainage issues are the larger undertakings in the list, Carroll said. The holes are an ongoing problem related to a ground squirrel population that booms and busts.

Many parks have a separate area for small dogs, Willett said. Many owners of small dogs aren’t comfortable bringing them around larger dogs. The Sunnyside park isn’t set up that way, and he would like to do something about that too.

Beyond that, Willett wants to take care of the humans who use the park with their dogs as well.

Carroll said volunteer help is always appreciated.

He wants to form a committee to build a walking path and a gazebo, he said. In the past 3½ months, he has lost 40 pounds. He brings his dog daily and walks around the perimeter of the park for 30 minutes.

“I’m using the park not only as a dog park but as my park to safely exercise,” Willett said. His goal is a crushed rock walking path around the park.

“The dogs don’t care (about the rain),” he said. “They run through the puddles. They love it.”

But human owners do, Willett said. The park also could use a gazebo as a shelter for owners while their dogs run around the park during the winter.

He plans to reach out to area organizations and different interested people in the community to form a committee and begin gathering materials and building the improvements, he said. At this point, he doesn’t believe the dog park is well known in the community, and he’d like to change that too and see more people use it year-round.

It’s well-used during the summer camping season, Willett said, but that use tailed off in between the camping seasons.

Anyone interested in improving the dog park is encouraged to contact Willett at (530) 320-1034.

 
 

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