A proposed redesign of the Japanese Garden in Lithia Park is on hold.
The donor behind the proposal and the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission have agreed to freeze the project for the remainder of the year due to negative reaction in the community.
On Monday, APRC voted 3-2 to proceed with the Japanese Garden redesign, which called for the removal of two 100-year-old healthy Douglas fir trees, which many people in the community opposed.
“The future of the garden is uncertain,” APRC Director Michael Black said Thursday. “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 to honor Beatrice Marechal, the late wife of the donor, Jeff Mangin.
Mangin and the Marechal family, of Normandy, France, donated $1.3 million for the renovation to turn the existing Japanese-style garden into a truly authentic Japanese garden.
But many community members opposed the removal of the fir trees.
“It wasn’t intended to be this disharmonious. We did not present the plan with the intent for it to create disharmony, and it did,” Black said. “The donor and APRC are 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 Japanese garden designer Toru Tanaka to create a new plan for the garden, which could have made it comparable to Tanaka’s other Japanese gardens, including one in Portland.
Plans called for the garden to remain free of admission fees despite the high expense of maintaining 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 harvested and repurposed into benches, fencing and possibly a tea house in the garden, were planted by an Ashland Boy Scout troop in 1924. The trees are healthy and still growing.
According to Ashland Tree Commission member Cat Gould at Monday’s meeting, red-shouldered hawks nest in the top, and the Tree Commission recommended that the trees remain where they are.