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Off-leash dog park on Greshams wish list


With no money to build such an amenity, city is relying on citizens, civic groups to raise money for project

It was a sunny summer day, and Gresham resident Conny Mottram walked Toby, her West Highland white terrier, at Main City Park. With no action on the fenced-off baseball field, Mottram took Toby off leash, much to his delight.

"We snuck in here," she said, as the dog rolled on his back in grass. "There's nobody playing and he loves to run."

Although our neighbors to the west in Portland have an assortment of dog parks to take their canine companions to, Gresham has none.

It's not as if the city — or the bulk of East Multnomah County, for that matter — isn't dog-friendly. Businesses in local shopping district often put bowls of water outside store doors for canines to drink from. Our four-legged friends are often seen on area trails, school yards and the like.

Yet there's no off-leash dog park in Gresham.by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Gresham resident Conny Mottram takes her dog Toby to the ball field at Main City Park every day so he can run off-leash. She said plans for an actual off-leash dog park would be a dream come true.

It's not for lack of trying, say city staff and local dog lovers.

Instead, it comes down to lack of money.

Gresham has earmarked the southeast portion of Main City Park as the future home of an off-leash dog park, but can't afford the estimated $100,000 it costs to build it, said Steve Fancher, director of Gresham's Department of Environmental Services.

Even though the city owns the land at Main City Park, creating a dog park there "is not as simple as a lot of people would think," Fancher said. "It's not a matter of putting a fence up and calling it good."

There are drainage issues to consider, especially taking in mind the area's close proximity to Johnson Creek, which makes rainwater run-off — and the, um, let's just call it bacteria that rain water could carry — a problem.

And there's the mud factor, he added, so bark chips or other surface treatments would be needed.by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Officials with the city of Gresham say an off-leash dog park is needed because dogs using ball fields, parks and school yards as off-leash areas damage the sod, creating a muddy mess.

Instead, those who want to take their dogs off-leash use school yards or ball fields. Mottram likes a particular baseball field at Main City Park because it is fenced, so her dog is enclosed but still has a lot of room to run and roam. It's also within walking distance of her home.

She once took her dog to Thousand Acres, another popular area for letting dogs run off leash, located in Troutdale along the Sandy River delta just north of Interstate 84. But she feared the larger dogs she saw there might not play well with her much smaller pooch and never returned.

The Springwater Trail, which runs just south of Main City Park, is an option. But with so many cyclists, skate boarders and runners, she would be constantly putting Toby's leash back on him.

So what does she think about an off-leash dog park nestled into the dog-leg of property on the southeast corner of Main City Park?

"Oh my gosh," she gasped. "That would be great. That would be a dream come true. There are a lot of people out there with dogs. That would be very very wanted, I am sure."

Fancher agreed, and said the city needs a designated area for dogs to run off leash to prevent damage at local parks, schools and sports fields. "The dogs damage the fields by tearing up the sod, particularly in the winter time when the grass is soft and wet and more prone to damage," he said.

"From a parks perspective, we're very supportive of creating an off-leash area in Gresham. But the city doesn't have the money to develop it and is relying on community groups to raise the money."

Enter Cheryl DuBois Graves, a Gresham resident who owns a salon on Main Avenue. She has teamed up with a couple of service clubs, including Rotary International of Gresham, to raise money for the dog park, and also hopes to create a public dog training course in downtown Gresham.by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - You could say shes gone to the dogs, but Cheryl DuBois Graves is spearheading an effort to raise money for an off-leash dog park in Greshams Main City Park, as well as a public dog training course in downtown Gresham.

She and her husband Tom have raised dogs for Boring-based Guide Dogs for the Blind, as well as raised pets that compete in obedience and agility competitions. With people across the metro area raising guide dogs for the organization, Graves thinks it would great to have those dogs and their trainers take the MAX to downtown Gresham and walk through a 30-block training course in the downtown core on their way to a future off-leash dog park in Main City Park.

She calls it Paw Walk, and here's how it would work. Approximately 40 artistic signs featuring a different command would be posted throughout downtown. Trainers would walk their dogs from sign to sign, practicing commands such as sit or wait.

During Gresham Art Walk on Saturday, July 20, she placed four training signs in front of her salon, in part to show other merchants what they look like, so they too can offer to host a sign at their place of business.

She also has displayed two dog sculptures she made of concrete in front of her salon in hopes of calling attention to the cause.

Now, she's trying to coordinate 100 dogs to march in next month's Teddy Bear Parade in downtown Gresham to create more awareness about the need for a dog park in Gresham and her plans for a pubic training course.

Until $50,000 is raised for the park, the city can't really move forward with any planning or construction, Graves said. She's placing dog-house themed collection containers at businesses for donations. So far, she's invested as much as $8,000 into her fundraising efforts.

"It's all about how bad the community wants it," she said. "If everybody in Gresham who owns a dog paid $5, there could be a dog park in Gresham. It could be that simple."

For details on how to donate or information about Paw Walk, contact Cheryl Dubois Graves at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You also can like Gresham Paw Walk on Facebook and get more details on her website at www.glamdogportraits.com. Just click on a toe on the paw print.