All across the country, dog parks are being created in an effort to let the hounds run and play while their owners socialize and swap canine stories. This phenomenon has hit southern Ulster County, where the Town of Gardiner is poised to officially open its dog park on May 12, and in New Paltz, where the Town Board has agreed to allow the group For Paws to utilize approximately two acres at the Field of Dreams off Libertyville Road for a future pooch park.
A dream that began four years ago, spearheaded by Gardiner resident Nancy Cass Barrett, has now come to fruition with a fenced-in dog park located behind the Gardiner Town Hall on a quarter-acre piece of land off Route 44/55 in the hamlet. To get things rolling, Barrett — who travels with her husband and their poodle all over the country, visiting dog parks wherever they can locate them – decided to join the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission so that she could inspire the group to take on this project with her. “I made a formal presentation to the Town Board, and they approved the use of the land behind Town Hall. And from there it’s been a community-wide effort with local businesses, the Girl Scout troops, Parks and Rec Department and dog-lovers chipping in to make this happen,” she said. She was standing next to the now-fenced-in park, with an area for small dogs and another area for large and small dogs, several newly planted trees, shrubs, perennials, with Girl Scouts and their parents working on a shade pavilion and volunteers stopping by to dig holes, put in posts and do whatever was necessary to get the park ready for its opening day celebration this Saturday, May 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Once the town gave permission to utilize the land, it was the generosity of the Natural Pet Center at Ireland Corners that donated all of the fencing for the park, constructed with cedar rails and posts — “not your typical chain-link fence you’d find at most dog parks,” said Barrett. “Without the Natural Pet Center, this dog park would still be a dream.”
Barrett was quick to point out that “no taxpayers’ dollars have been used for this project…your taxes aren’t going to the dogs…Then we had the Girl Scouts [Troops 60288 and 60383) adopt the dog park for their Silver Award project, which is a big deal and an enormous undertaking. They’ve been hard at work building an arbor and planting flowers, trees and shrubs, and spent the past winter fundraising and planning the details for a fundraising dog show at the grand opening.” As Barrett spoke with the New Paltz Times, the Girl Scouts kept coming in with forsythias, shade trees and wood for the pavilion.
The dog park is perched on a gorgeous piece of land, cattycorner to the town’s baseball field. Working on some last-minute details and signage and design with Barrett was the head of Parks and Rec, Mike Gagliardi. “She’s the one who really drove this project, and look how incredible it’s turned out,” said Gagliardi, referring to Barrett. “It’s a nice addition to the community, and it’s truly the first of its kind. The park is not only for the dogs, but there are benches located outside the fence, making it a nice spot for residents to watch dogs playing, catch a baseball game while catching the skydivers gliding through the air from the nearby parachuting facility.”
There are rules that will be posted and need to be followed, including people having to clean up after their dogs, supervise their dogs at all times, claim responsibility if any sort of accident should arise and bring their own water, as the park does not yet have water running to it.
There was also river rock donated by the Parks and Rec Department that curves through the park, following a natural depression that often gets wet after a heavy rain. “This way, the dogs won’t get all muddy, and it adds a nice visual aspect as well,” said Gagliardi.
According to Barrett, hardscape landscaper Tony Osborn of Artscapes in Gardiner has offered his time and expertise with creative placement of large boulders surrounding the rim of the park. The park itself has a sculptural feel to it, and “I know the dogs will enjoy playing chase around the boulders!”
“I think this is going to be a great boon for Gardiner,” said Rich Ferrono, owner of Ultimate Gymnastics in Gardiner, who stopped by with his golden retriever Trip to help stake some pear trees. “There are so many tourists here that come to climb and visit and bring their dogs. When they discover the dog park, it’s going to bring people to downtown Gardiner. It’s also great for local residents to have a place to let their dogs run and socialize, while enjoying friends and getting to know neighbors.
“Dogs are pack animals, and in a place like Gardiner, where most people live on five acres of land, their dogs have ample space to run, but not ample opportunity to play with other dogs. Their family becomes their pack. A dog park gives dogs an opportunity to be dogs, and people the opportunity to get to know one another.”
The park will be open from dawn to dusk on an at-your-own-risk basis. There will be a message board kiosk with the park rules, the number of the local dogcatcher, animal hospital and police info, as well as any kind of animal-related postings and upcoming events, lost or found animals, etc.
For more information you can e-mail Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org, but the best way is to follow the group on Facebook by going to gardinerdogpark@facebook.
While For Paws of Ulster, Inc. has received New Paltz Town Board approval to utilize two acres of land out at the Field of Dreams, which they lease from the county for $1 a year, and necessary 501 (c) (3) status that the Town Board required, the group is now waiting on the town and county to amend their contract to include a dog park as part of the allowed uses at the multi-faceted park. It is also trying to raise enough funds to add the necessary infrastructure, fencing and plantings to make the group’s dog and dog-owner dream a reality.
Councilwoman Kitty Brown said that she believes that the town has done everything that it needs to in order to ensure that the dog park can move forward. In the meantime, For Paws of Ulster, Inc. is also working on a contract that would define the role of each in the management and maintenance of the park, according to Danielle Sessa Cardella, president of For Paws. “We currently have approximately $4,000 in the dog park fund. Most of that money was raised before we even had a definite parcel for the park, so we’re hoping we can really pick up the pace now that we know for sure that this is happening and where it’s happening,” she said.
As for the money still to be raised to get the dog park up and running (and the dogs running), Cardella said, “The land is still in a very natural state, with lots of young trees and brush. Since we’re still in the contract phase, we’re not entirely sure who will be responsible for the clearing and potential grading of the parcel. This would increase our estimate very substantially, if it winds up being something we have to subcontract out. We also still need to assess whether or not there are any potential donors for things like fencing. I would estimate that this will be at least a $20,000 project.”
Toward that end, For Paws is already working hard on planning fundraisers, with its first event slated for June 6 through 8 at Twisted Foods in Rosendale. “We like to partner with local business to bring small fundraisers to the community and reach an audience that might not already know about the dog park. We’ve also setup a PayPal account, so that people can donate from the comfort of their own computers. If anyone wants to send a donation, our P.O. Box is number 1074 in New Paltz, NY. Once we have some more information from the county and town, we’d really like to offer some kind of recognition for corporate and larger individual donors: something along the lines of a plaque, say, on a bench, or a board of small plaques. We already have commitments from three local businesses to sponsor a few of the amenities needed. Paws of Distinction has committed to sponsoring one of the necessary Dogipots [the actual name for the dog waste disposal systems], as has www.dogbedsdogcrates.com. And we have already received a donation from Schain and Company, CPAs for a bench in memorium of a deceased family member.”
Members of For Paws are excited and working diligently to ensure that they have a park constructed and open and ready by spring of 2013. “We don’t have an estimated groundbreaking date yet, as there are still a lot of things to work out, monies to be raised. But we would love to see a spring 2013 opening date,” she said.
For more information, just log onto www.forpawspark.com. ++