To a considerable degree, the health and hygiene of the Oakhurst dogpark starts with mulch.  The woodchips arrive.  Huge piles of chipped wood mostly from trees in Decatur and many in Oakhurst.  Our last 2 huge loads were from the trees in Harmony park just down the road.

The wood-chip mini-mountains stay there and get peed and played on until they are moved or they decompose into dirt.  Mostly we move them, and by “we” i mean I.  Don’t get me wrong, I really thoroughly enjoy the whole process of taking these chip hills fork by fork (pitch, that is) and moving them into the forest or other areas in the flood-plain that need help.  From the very beginning I understood that the health of the forest and trees is paramount to the overall well being of the entire park.

Richard Backwell inspired me when i saw him cutting choking invasive vines from the trees.  I started helping him and then began the 3+ year process of moving hundreds of tons of the mulch up the hill and into the forest.  My goal, after studying water run-off and trees for years on my own old property and consulting with experts and professionals, was to re-build the soil.  To that end, I created small paths through the forest and left the rest to be as wild as possible.  It’s taken a few years, but thee is a lot of soil now in the forest.  And, we’ve created channels and berms and different methods to keep as much water on the hill as possible.  Now when it rains, many thousands of gallons of water are not running down onto the overworked field. There is also much less standing water in the flood area and therefore less mosquitoes and less mud.

In 1995 I started an entertainment company, Jest for Fun! Productions, Inc., and one of my favorite clients was the Atlanta Botanical Gardens- a magical place in the center of the city.  I wanted our little forest to be like the old forest area of the Botanical Garden prior to building the “canopy tour.”  It has become like that in  many small ways; dogpark denizens have  built rock sculptures and wood sculptures and painted signs and made art.  Deborah yarn bombed the trees and kids twisted Wisteria vines into circles and hearts.  Our little forest is home to lots of creatures like owls and hawks and bats and loads of other birds and ground critters.  There is a great human component that is part of the forest as well as a wonderful canine community.

And it starts with the mulch.

Pro Tips on Mulching

  • Keep mulch on paths only, and make them deep, but narrow –about one rake’s width.
  • For areas on the field, do your best to cover obvious dirt/mud/bald areas, but do your best not to cover the outside grass parts
  • Lots of much can go behind the little fenced area and a berm of wood chips  can be placed on the full backside and 60% of the sides.  This will keep water in the fenced area where we will be planting Willow trees and bog plants in the near future.
  • Fill in holes as they are dug, the scent of the trees covers some of the reason to dogs to dig.
  • It is best to continually add wood chips  to the front area, near the two tables, as this area wears down fast from traffic and lots of rain run-off from the sidewalk.
  • Stretch first, wear gloves, bend your knees and have fun! It’s great exercise and you get to be outside in fresh air all while helping the forest and it’s inhabitants, the dogs and the humans in Oakhurst

Lee Goldsmith

December 20, 2014