Tucked away in Henderson Park sits a fenced-in space for the community’s furry friends.
The Bryan County Bark Park takes in about 1,600 square linear feet. This was no small undertaking for those involved developing the park.
“The idea originated from a Thanksgiving trip to Highlands, North Carolina, where my family and I stumbled along a bark park,” said Wendy Bolton, the president of the Bark Park. “We loved it and Bailey, our golden retriever, loved it. It was like taking a small child to a playground.”
After returning to Richmond Hill, the Bolton family wondered if they were alone in thinking the community needed a bark park. As it turned out, they were not.
This project was birthed from a small idea that turned into serious conversation with Lesley Francis, a Rotarian and the CEO of Richmond Hill-based Lesley Francis PR, and Jane Honnor, owner of PawParazzi Pet Boutique of Richmond Hill. The trio held their first meeting in June 2012 and set a goal obtaining 500 signatures from local businesses on a petition. The signatures were to prove, or disprove, that there was a desire for a dog park in Bryan County.
About 1,500 signatures later, the three determined there was a strong desire for such a park.
“The county was open to listening to ideas but wanted to see an amount fundraised before committing to the space,” Bolton said. “We went on to raise $12,000 at our first fundraising event at Marker 107 in the spring of 2013. The wine and cheese event had a silent auction, live auction, raffle, music, food and more. There were about 150 people in attendance. We surpassed the $10,000 goal.”
But the money was only one component to establishing and developing the Bark Park.
Over the next year, Bolton and other key players began the lengthy process of laying the administrative foundation for what would become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
“We filed all our forms with the state to incorporate and began to develop bylaws and outline what the organization would look like from a board standpoint,” Bolton said. “Nothing exciting, just the hard work and groundwork was taking place.”
Because of low-lying land and uncooperative weather, the Bark Park was not able to open as early as planned.
“It was about a year from the time of the first meeting until actual work began taking place at the park,”
Groundbreaking finally began in mid-February 2014.
“We worked with an architect, Scott Barnard of Savannah,” Bolton said. “He was instrumental in helping us lay things out and design the area. Scott helped us develop the plan.”
All decisions for the layout and aesthetics of the park were made with a focus on the longevity of the materials. The goal to not take away from the space’s natural beauty.
Thanks in part to a monetary donation from the Richmond Hill Rotary Club, a 550-square-foot sidewalk was developed leading to the park. This well as other donations, fundraising events and in-kind gifts of service pushed the Bark Park closer to attaining its monetary goal.
The estimated project cost is $70,000. The Bark Park is in the final stages of raising the money to become debt-free and complete its ultimate vision of adding a pavilion for events, adoption days and more.
On Nov. 5, 2014, community members gathered to celebrate the Bark Park’s ribbon cutting.
“From the beginning, the community has been incredibly supportive,” Bolton said. “People were very eager and generous with their support and by coming to events and kindly making donations.”
Dog owners have benefited.
“They no longer have to go find a space,” Bolton said. “Not everyone has a big yard. Many live in apartments or townhomes, and they are limited in the space their dogs can play.”
Not only does this space allow opportunity for dog owners, it also provides opportunity for those interested in rescuing animals. The park gives lovers of dogs big and small a place to safely take their animals to run, play or work on agility skills. The backdrop is scenic, with benches and a wash station to clean the animals before heading home.
For more information on how you can get involved or attend the next event, go to www.bryanbarkpark.com or www.facebook.com/BryanCountyBarkPark.