The Japanese Garden project donor and the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission have agreed to put garden construction on hold for the remainder of the year due to negative reaction in the community.
The proposal to proceed with the Japanese Garden as designed, including the removal of two mature Douglas fir trees, was approved on a 3-2 commission vote at Monday’s APRC meeting.
“The future of the garden is uncertain,” APRC Director Michael Black said. “We’re not moving forward with it at this point.”
Black said the purpose of the garden was to create a place of harmony within the community. It was intended as a gift in honor of the donor, Jeff Mangin’s late wife, Beatrice Marechal.
Mangin and the Marechal family of Normandy, France, donated $1.3 million for the renovation to make a truly authentic Japanese Garden from the existing Japanese-style garden.
“It wasn’t intended to be this disharmonious. We did not intend to present the plan with the intent for it to create disharmony, and it did,” Black said. “The donor and APRC is responding to that by putting the project on hold. We didn’t want to create a big chasm in the community. That definitely wasn’t our intent.”
Black said they appreciate all the comments they received, especially the ones with a positive tone.
“You can disagree with somebody and still be positive about it, but we do appreciate people giving their feedback and their feedback means something,” Black said.
Mangin commissioned renowned Japanese Garden designer Toru Tanaka to create the authentic features, which could have made the garden comparable to Tanaka’s other Japanese gardens, including the famed one in Portland.
Plans called for the garden to remain free of admission costs despite the high expense of maintenance for such a complex design, partly by continued support from Mangin and partly from training of volunteers to tend to the garden.
The Douglas fir trees, which would have been logged, harvested and repurposed into benches, fencing and possibly a tea house in the garden, were planted by the Ashland Boy Scout troop in 1924. They are healthy and still growing.
According to tree commissioner Cat Gould at Monday’s meeting, red-shouldered hawks are nested in the top, and the city Tree Commission recommended that the trees remain where they are.
Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at email@example.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.