For more information about the dog park, visit bryancountybarkpark.com or follow Bryan County Bark Park on Facebook.
Local animal lovers celebrated National Dog Day by supporting the Bryan County Bark Park.
Proceeds from the “yappy hour” fundraiser at Fish Tales restaurant on Wednesday will go toward paying monthly expenses and keeping the community dog park in Richmond Hill free of charge to the public, according to organizers.
“Events like ‘yappy hour’ don’t bring in a tremendous amount of money, but when you’re a small non-profit, every little bit helps,” said Bryan County Bark Park Association president Wendy Bolton.
Bryan County commissioners allocated land in Henderson Park for the dog area, which opened last November. However, paying the dog park’s expenses and maintaining its grounds falls entirely on the all-volunteer Bark Park Association.
The monthly costs include electricity for the lights and fountain, providing dog waste bags, landscaping and keeping the website updated. That averages between $400 and $500 per month, according to Bolton, with the electric bill accounting for the bulk of it.
“We still need everybody’s support so that we can keep the park open and keep it in good shape,” she said. “One day maybe the county will pick up some of those costs, but right now it’s our responsibility.”
Several supporters turned out for the fundraiser. Lisa Tyler brought along her two dogs, Ginger and Noel, who are regular visitors to the Bark Park.
“It’s fantastic,” Tyler said. “My dogs love it out there.”
Dog owners Paul and Melissa Belfield said they made plans to attend “yappy hour” as soon as they saw it advertised through social media. They frequent the Bark Park with their chocolate Lab, Sebastian.
“I don’t think a lot of people know about (the dog park), so I always tell friends and colleagues,” Melissa Belfield said. “I’m just glad there’s a space now that everybody can enjoy and appreciate, so we’re grateful for everybody that was involved in opening it.”
One of the items the Belfields bought at the fundraiser was a doggy smoothie, which Sebastian enthusiastically lapped up. The Bark Park Association also sold T-shirts, bandanas, treats and Bowser Beer, a non-alcoholic, beef- or chicken-flavored beverage for dogs.
The “yappy hour” celebration at Fish Tales was the first of several fundraisers the Bark Park Association plans to have in the coming months. The major one will be the third annual Bryan’s Bash, an evening of auctions, entertainment and food on Feb. 20 at the Richmond Hill City Center.
The association also is in the midst of its buy-a-brick campaign. For a $75 or $100 contribution, donors will have a personalized brick placed along the sidewalk leading to the dog park.
“There are a lot of ways to help, big and small,” Bolton said. “We’re so thankful that there’s been such a tremendous amount of support in the community. We could’ve never done this alone.”
Support has come from beyond Bryan County as well. Bolton has found that some Interstate 95 travelers purposely make stops in communities with dog parks.
She referenced one family from Nova Scotia that stopped in Richmond Hill. They supported not just the dog park, Bolton said, but also the local economy by spending a night in town and eating dinner at the dog-friendly Fish Tales restaurant.
“That’s money that would’ve gone to another community,” Bolton said. “We would’ve lost that money to somewhere else along I-95.”