APPLEGATE VALLEY, ORE.– A little more than two decades ago, Jackson County Parks was struggling with a variety of issues leading to a decision to close the Cantrall Buckley Park.
Not wanting to lose the Applegate Valley staple, community members stepped up and took on management and maintenance of the park. After recently changing it’s name, the nonprofit, A Greater Applegate, hasn’t changed it’s duty of being a source for volunteers to come and work towards maintaining all 88 acres of the park.
“This park is like the jewel of the Applegate Valley,” said Seth Kaplan, board chairman of A Greater Applegate.
Kaplan, who recently settled in the valley, described how families have been coming to the park for generations due to the special nature of the park. It’s one of the few places along the Applegate River that provides public access.
Naturally, when the closure notice came up, residents rushed to save it.
“The people were very concerned about that and some community leaders stepped up and said, ‘We’ll run it,'” said Kaplan. “So it’s always been a county park but the community agreed to run it.”
Now, though, it looks like the organization is getting some help. Since the beginning of February, the parks department has once again taken over maintenance and is providing some much needed improvements including renovated restrooms, a new play structure and plans with A Greater Applegate to build solar panels that would power two-thirds of the park.
“Managing a park through volunteers is difficult and they got to a point where they just needed help,” said John Vial, director of Jackson County Roads and Parks. “We approached them and said, ‘What if we take the park back. Our parks program is in much better shape now.’ And they said, ‘Great.'”
Vial said they did an adequate job of maintaining the park over the last twenty years and he looks forward to working with the organization on further projects involving the park. Kaplan says he and the board agree.
“We’re very happy with how its going and we’re working really well with the county,” he said. “I think everybody’s pleased and excited about how this is moving forward.”
The nonprofit will still be a part of the park working to provide community outreach programs and educational opportunities.
“Mainly by doing special projects and helping bring community interest to the park,” said Kaplan. “But they’re taking over the day-to-day management of the park and the infrastructure.”
It may be just a park but for residents of the valley it represents something greater about the community.
“This is one of those places that people come out and say, ‘Wow, this is just a beautiful place and I understand why you all want to live here,'” said Kaplan.
The organization plans to hold a celebration at the park in July marking it’s 50th anniversary.