“Go big or go home” is the usual expression – but not when it comes to the future dog park at Anderson Farm Park.

This time, it’s “go big and go long,” Anderson Park Friends president Roe Parker said.

The new dog park project at Anderson Farm Park, 914 Union Road, will eventually take shape as 38 acres of play space for canines and caretakers. Getting it completed will be a bit of a long game, Parker said, as the process of planting and nourishing one of the largest prairies in the county will be a years-long process.

When the entire project is finished, large and small dogs will have separate exercise areas at the park, and the native prairie areas will create a sustainable habitat for butterflies, bees, birds and other insects. It will also be one of the largest volunteer projects in the Oregon area, Parker said.

Other projects at Anderson Farm Park include a new bike path, fencing and parking, all of which are expected to be complete in 2021, park planner Alex DeSmidt said. Native tree plantings will be completed in fall 2021 along the bike path and at other locations in the dog park, Parker said, as will edible fruit trees including apple and cherry.

Last week and earlier this week, some of those volunteers, who were masked-up to prevent the spread of COVID-19, worked for several days driving orange rod-like tools into the ground – called dibbles – to create homes for over 7,000 native prairie plants. Those dibbles assisted in planting plugs beneath jute netting and mulch, which helps protect prairie plants that are more sensitive.

Rain last week delayed completion of the project, Parker said, but also added the rain was very timely to establish the new plants.

The joint Anderson Park Friends and county parks department project began in January with the seeding of 38 acres of prairie. The opening day of the park has yet to be announced. When completed, it’ll be the second prairie in the county park – over the past two weeks, volunteers planted five acres of native prairie near the Arthur Sholts Memorial Forest.

Parker said the project, especially the natural prairie development, will provide benefits to the community for decades.

“It will also help control potential flooding in the immediate area using a large drainage basin-location for the plants,” he said. “A few fields south of the park were flooded due to heavy rains in recent years.”

The 7,000 native prairie plants will contribute to a new stormwater retention facility called a bio-infiltration basin, which captures runoff from the dog park parking area before it can flood out nearby areas, and instead promotes ground infiltration.

Volunteers planted a variety of plants, including spiderwort, golden alexander, calico sedge, asters, lavender monarda, and common milkweed. Roe said staff could decide to add other species of prairie plants next year.

An adjacent detention pond will be planted with a native seed mix this winter once there is snow cover, Parker added.

Anderson Park Farm’s long-term strategy is to build large native plant habitats in the park and connect them to the adjacent Centennial Park operated by the Town of Oregon, said Parker.

Once the prairie starts to flourish, Parker said he plans to seek a monarch butterfly certification for the new prairie in 2022 from the national Monarch Waystation Program. He said the park’s current pollinator garden, funded by a grant from the county’s Environmental Council, received recognition and certification as a monarch way station from MWP in 2019.

Parker expressed appreciation to area organizations that supported the Friends in 2020. Partners have included the Oregon Public Library, Thrivent Financial, Boy Scout Troops #50 and #168 and the county parks department and its foundational arm.

“Without their volunteer and fiscal support, we wouldn’t have been able to continue our 2020 efforts during the COVID-19 situation,” Parker said. “We appreciate their time, money and efforts.”

Neal Patten, community reporter, can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.