Friday, October 31, 2014

Dog-friendly park to come to the ‘burg

A place for pooch — A new dog-loving park is coming to the Lynchburg area, offering a fenced-in area for man’s best friend to run free. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Lynchburg canines and their owners have something to wag their tails about, with the upcoming construction of Blackwater Creek Athletic Area. The park, which will be built when fundraising efforts have been completed, will provide a fenced area where dogs can roam leash-free.

The park’s mission, posted on the Lynchburg Dog Park’s website, is “to establish and maintain an off-leash dog park open to the general public where dog owners may exercise their dogs and benefit from educational programs promoting healthy dog behavior.”

“We have had a really great response from the community,” President of the Board of Directors Thomas Strayhorne said. “We even have Liberty students helping out. It will be a great place to socialize with both dogs and other people.”

As an owner of a German Shephard, Strayhorne is one of many dog owners in the area with the desire to see such a project completed.

Photo credit: Kate Powley

Strayhorn serves on the board for The Friends of Lynchburg Dog Park, Inc., which is a local nonprofit corporation that was founded in order to foster the building of the much-anticipated park and is partnered with the City of Lynchburg.

He estimated that the park would need an initial $40,000 to open. However, he clearly stated that no tax dollars would be used on the project.

“The main concern was money, and people would be unhappy if taxes from the city were taken for the project,” Strayhorn said.

Strayhorn is optimistic that construction on the park will start before the close of the year.

“We’d like to maybe have a commercial fence and gate to at least complete Phase One, then hopefully get additional things,” he said. Extra amenities would be incorporated in Phases Two and Three, including benches, water fountains and trails.

Because of these factors, extensive fundraising efforts have been launched and Strayhorn reported that funds increased from $4,000 in early 2011 to $34,000 in the fall of last year, mostly attributed to a last-minute entry into a competition through Penn State.

In addition, the holiday season also facilitated events such as the “All I Want for Christmas is a Dog Park” Campaign. An upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Irish Festival with the Lynchburg Rotary Club and a $2,000 grant from The Greater Lynchburg Community Trust are also recent happenings that are furthering the cause.

According to the official website, a committee of representatives formed the Off-Leash Dog Park Steering Committee to complete research to support the vision for the park.

The committee researched the achievability of such a park and subsequently submitted the Dog Park Feasibility Study to the Lynchburg City Council in 2008. The study thoroughly explains all elements needed to build and maintain a leash-free park, including everything from fundraising ideas, rules and regulations within the park, and necessary facility elements like pet waste stations and separate areas for small dogs.

Results from a survey given to potential patrons of the park found that 95 percent would support a dog park in the area and 44 percent surveyed said they would make multi-weekly visits. Some survey participants wrote recommendations for the future park such as the inclusion of professional staff to monitor dogs and handle scuffles.

Strayhorn has high hopes for the future of the park as volunteers and dog-lovers continue to pour into the project.

“I’m very excited. The community has been a great help,” he said. “A dog park like this will provide a great experience for both dogs and their owners.”

To learn more, visit http://lynchburgdogpark.com/default.aspx.

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