The sound of dogs barking was very likely music to Wendy Bolton’s ears Wednesday afternoon.
Bolton, who spearheaded the effort to turn the Bryan County Bark Park from dream to reality, was one of dozens of people on hand in a corner of DuVaul Henderson Park as a bright red ribbon was unrolled and then cut to officially mark the Bark Park’s opening and give local dogs a place to be dogs.
It was a hit from the outset.
“This is just special,” said Mary Grimm, a Richmond Hill resident who brought her 1-year-old dog Tucker to the park. “This is the perfect place.”
Grimm was one of several people who took advantage of the park’s first day in business. Free to the public, the fenced-in park has a pond with a fountain and a real fire hydrant.
“They can just run, and run, and be happy,” Grimm said. “This is great. I love it, and so does Tucker.”
Bolton served as president of the group behind the park, which Bryan County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed called an example of a “private-public partnership” during a brief speech before the ribbon was cut.
“The county provided the land and a few other things, but the group really doing the major heavy lifting is (the Bark Park committee.),” Burnsed said. “We’ve all learned, I think, if you wait on government to get something done, you might wait a very long time because there’ve got a lot of things in front of them.”
Bolton called the effort to turn the Bark Park from dream to reality a journey that had its bumps along the way, but one which was necessary.
“This dog park fulfill a greater need than we ever dreamed existed when we began this project over two years ago,” she said. “At times it’s been a challenging journey but I’ve never doubted we would succeed.”
The park was built largely through private means – not least of which were fundraisers such as the group’s monthly Yappy Hour fundraisers and the business community’s support of the park’s Wine & Cheese fundraiser, which raised about $18,000 and netted the park $14,000. But there’s still work to be done, Bolton said.
“We’re not done here,” she told those at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “We still have money to raise, for ongoing operational costs and to satisfy $20,000 in debt incurred by the Bryan County Bark Park Association for building the park.”
Bolton said the park cost the BCBPA roughly $54,000 to build – and that doesn’t include some $15,000 of in-kind work. Among the costs: the group spent $15,000 to improve the land, which sits in a low area, $10,000 to build a sidewalk compliant with the American Disabilities Act, and another $15,000 for 1,600 feet of fencing.
But it was worth it, she said, noting 1,500 people signed a petition in support of the park. She called the work to create and build it a group effort, and a large group effort at that.
“So many wonderful people have helped make this dream a reality, giving their time and talents, as well as our incredible supporters, without whom this amazing dog park would not have been possible,” she said. “There are too many to mention but you know who you are and I, for one, am forever grateful.”
BCBPA board member Lesley Francis said that while all the Bark Park membership “contributed a great deal,” Bolton deserves most of the credit and made it happen.
“Wendy has not only been our president but has been project manager for the building of this park, learning more than she ever wanted to about drainage of boggy land and construction,” Francis said, adding that Bolton led the BCBPA’s fundraising efforts and also handled negotiations with county officials.
Bolton, along with her husband Mark and son Nicholas, also invested their own money and sweat equity into the park and the association, which is a registered nonprofit organization, Francis said.
“She … has personally invested thousands of hours and her own money into making this park happen,” Francis said. “She has been out here day and night, rain … and shine, often with her wonderfully supportive family … hauling dirt, clearing garbage and working alongside the professionals.”
Burnsed said the result was worth it, calling it “this magnificent facility which I’m sure will get a great deal of us, and as the community continues to grow we’ll see more people taking advantage of it.”
Jim Ramhoff, who was there with Buckeye, a massive Black Russian Terrier, said he was glad to see the Bark Park open.
“We had a bark park where I lived in North Carolina,” Ramhoff said. “This one is great. It’s a nice, shaded area. It’s just great for the dogs, and the need is there. There are a lot of dogs in this community.”
The Bark Park is on 1.5 acres in Henderson Park which remain county property, but the building and maintenance of the park are the responsibility of the Bark Park Association, according to the group’s website.
For more information about the park and how you can help, go to www.bryancountybarkpark.com