It’s opening. After years of fundraising and months of construction, the Bryan County Bark Park is officially opening with a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the new facility in DeVaul Henderson Park.
“More than 42 percent of residents in Richmond Hill live in multi-family dwellings with no yard they can call their own,” Bark Park President Wendy Bolton said. “Should those families wish to adopt a rescue pet, there’s a good chance they couldn’t since they don’t have a fenced-in yard. If there’s a dog park a few minutes away, it might make the difference in being eligible to adopt.”
Bolton said another reason Richmond Hill needed a dog park is to help dogs socialize.
“Studies show that dogs benefit from socialization and there’s no better way to accomplish that than at a dog park,” Bolton said. “I’ve often described my experience with taking my golden retriever, Bailey, to a dog park like taking a small child to a playground. A dog park is the one recreational facility that is ageless. Playgrounds appeal to a limited demographic as do ball fields. Everyone, young and old, can benefit from a dog park.”
To raise funds needed for the dog park and to kick off the opening, the Bryan County Bark Park Association is hosting an event Saturday, Nov. 8, starting at 10 a.m. Families and their furry friends are invited to a Paws in the Park Fall Festival, which will include a 3K run and half-mile walk. Dogs are welcome to join their owners in the race and will receive a bandana that matches the event T-shirt.
“This event will be the first of many we hope to hold at the park,” Bark Park Vice President Jane Honnor said. “We are excited to host this event and celebrate all the hard work that’s gone into building the park. The festival will be a family event; people can bring their children and their canine family members and enjoy a fun day.”
The event will have competitions including a Fall Fever Costume Contest, Tricks-for-Treats Talent Contest and an Owner Look-Alike Contest. Winners of the contests will receive prizes. Displays featuring agility and police-dog demonstrations also will be at the event. Refreshments for both people and dogs will be available for purchase.
“We want people to come to Paws in the Park and see the new dog park their support as helped build,” Honnor said. “We are having puppet shows, face painting, pottery painting and displays. There will be lots of fun for children, but we aren’t forgetting our canine family members, either. We are having hot-dog bobbing, a pet photographer and lots of great activities. Also, there will be a selection of yummy treats and smoothies for your pet to enjoy.”
Cedar Animal Hospital will offer on-site microchipping between 12-3 p.m. for $55, which includes the microchip registration, and PawParazzi will offer nail clipping and ear cleaning for $5 each. Proceeds will be donated to the Bark Park. Raffles, pet-friendly shopping and children’s activities will run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
“We are in the final stretch,” Bolton said. “The fencing is about 95 percent complete, the sidewalk is complete and we have water and electricity. There is still quite a bit of work to be done, and we’re diligently working toward completion. We still have construction costs to pay for phase one. We had quite a bit of expense making the land usable, costs we didn’t expect to incur. In addition, there will be ongoing monthly expenses relating to park operation.”
Registration for the race costs $25 and is available online at www.bryancountybarkpark.com or by collecting a registration pack at PawParazzi. Runners and walkers also may register the day of the race but event T-shirts and bandanas are limited; registering in advance assures participants receive them. The money raised supports the fundraising campaign of the Bryan County Bark Park Association, which now is registered as a nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.
“Since the beginning, our community has supported our efforts to develop a dog park,” Bolton said. “From Yappy Hours at Fish Tales with support from Southern Eagle, to our annual wine and cheese fundraiser, movie night at The Ice Cream Stop and Pet Photos with Santa, we’ve had enormous support. But we can’t stop now. We still have expenses related to phase one that must be paid. In addition, we have future plans to make the park even better with the addition of an agility course and a pavilion.”
The dog park will be open from dawn to dusk, but Bolton said they hope to have later hours once the time changes due to Daylight Saving Time so that people who work still will have the chance to use the park on weekdays.
“This has been a long road, starting when Lesley Francis, Jane Honnor and I discussed the possibility of a dog park in our community on June 13, 2012, over coffee,” Bolton said. “There have been challenges along the way, but we never once doubted we would succeed in developing a safe place for dogs to play off-leash in our community. We’re excited. It has been quite an undertaking and I’ll be honest, I will be glad to hang up my project-manager hat!”