A grand opening was held by “For Paws of Ulster” on Saturday, September 27 for the new Ulster County Dog Park in New Paltz. The official ribbon cutting accompanied by officials had already happened earlier in the week, but this day was less about ceremony and more about weekend playtime, as only befits a place that was designed to provide a safe haven for dogs to romp off the leash and for their owners to socialize with each other. The latter aspect of it was a surprise to local veterinarian and For Paws of Ulster, Inc. board member Karen Bennett, who said she was “amazed” to see how much social engagement the park was bringing about between the people who had brought their dogs there. “If you look around, you’ll see that everybody is smiling. But how could you not smile looking at all this?”
Founding member of For Paws of Ulster Christine DeBoer has been one of the prime movers in developing the park since they began the project more than four years ago. “We’re really excited to finally have it open,” she said. “We did it for the community, but to keep it going, we need the help of the community. It’s all been done with volunteer labor by people who have full-time day jobs, and we can only continue to do it with the support of the people that come here to use the park.” It will be self-policing, she said, but with hopes that it will be done with a positive spirit.
The nonprofit For Paws of Ulster, Inc. has a contract with the county and the town that allows them to use the land for the park, but the cost of any needed repairs, maintenance and amenities have to be funded through community efforts. DeBoer said that fundraising will continue to be ongoing in order to maintain the park, but people can also make donations to sponsor items like benches, which can have a nameplate installed to honor a loved one. Additions to the park will occur as funds make them possible; they’d like to add another waste station closer to the park’s entrance, some shade structures, a community message board, and water to the site with fountains for each area.
The two-acre park is free of charge and open on a daily basis, dawn to dusk. It has two enclosed areas, one for large dogs that weigh more than 30 pounds and another for small dogs that weigh less than that. Each area has double gates so that a dog owner steps inside an enclosed area, shuts the gate behind them, unleashes their dog and then enters the park through a second gate with their dog off the leash. The gates are handicapped accessible, said DeBoer, pointing out an eight-foot bench just inside, as well, where those with disabilities can sit while the dogs are free to play in the enclosed park. Handicapped parking is available at the park’s entrance.
The Ulster County Dog Park is located at the Field of Dreams, across the street from the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Libertyville Road in New Paltz. It’s easily accessible by turning in at the sign for the recreation department and driving all the way to the far end of the property. The signs for the park will feature their distinctive graphic logo in red with a profile of a running dog.
County Executive Mike Hein’s name is featured prominently on signage at the park’s entrance because he was instrumental in getting the county funding for the chain link fencing that surrounds the park. The park had been in a sort of holding pattern until this past July when the fencing was arranged, but once that was done, the final stumbling block to getting the park opened was removed.
The grand opening on Saturday brought out an estimated several hundred dogs and their humans, all of whom appeared to be enjoying themselves in the early fall sunshine. Barry Koffler, accompanied by his serene white German Shepherd Belle, lives locally and said he’d be back. DeBoer said she recognized many of the visitors from seeing them at the dog park in Orange County she used to drive all the way down to with her rescue dogs, Cosmo, Cricket and Coco. She pointed out Andrea Angelo and Jim Veronesi, who live in Poughkeepsie. They brought their tiny Izzie and Roxie — a Yorkie and Morkie (Maltese and Yorkie combination) respectively — to let them run off leash. “They’re very small,” said Angelo, “and we’re very protective of them. It’s good for them to socialize with other dogs this way.” Interacting with the other dogs improves their behavior, too, she added. So how does the new park measure up? “The park looks beautiful,” she said. “They have appropriate signage, proper cleanup areas and bags and it’s so important to have a small and large side for the dogs.” She smiled. “It’s great. Well worth it.”
For more information, visit www.ForPawsPark.com or look for “For Paws of Ulster” on Facebook.