Back in 2016, Fort Oglethorpe City Councilmember Rhonda James attended a training session focused on the benefits of public community spaces. That summer, she brought the idea of building a dog park to the council.
The project is now nearing its completion. The "Bark City" dog park officially opens to the public Saturday, Oct. 19 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and marketplace from 10 a.m. to noon. The park is located next to city hall at 500 City Hall Drive.
James, with support from Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins, helped spearhead the Bark City planning committee, meeting with about 12 community members monthly since February 2018. They worked to fundraise, partnering with local animal organizations and other community members to get the dog park off the ground.
"This wouldn't have been possible without our community partners who've supported the park," Payne-Simpkins said. "This will be a really nice asset."
Students from a Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School drafting class helped to design the park, and LFO carpentry students helped build six benches and two tables for those at the park with their pets.
At first, the planning committee considered trying to raise $40,000 to build the dog park in another part of town, but with the land next to city hall donated by Hardee's, the city was able to drastically lower the cost for the park, bringing it down to a more manageable $18,000, Payne-Simpkins said.
CTI Engineers Inc. in Chattanooga donated its services to design a solution for flooding issues at the site, she added. Ultimately, thanks to donations like these, the committee was only responsible for raising $3,000 of the park's hard costs.
Back in 2017, of 235 residents polled, 89% said the city would benefit from a dog park, according to Payne-Simpkins. Seeing this response, the city voted to allocate $15,000 for the project, the only money the city has put into the park directly.
The total value of donated goods and funds, including the land, is around $140,000 from over 40 sponsors and partners, she said.
"People who are passionate about their pets are really passionate about their pets," Payne-Simpkins said.
The park has separate spaces for dogs of all sizes, and the area will be equipped to provide shade during the summer months and lights for night use.
Vendors will be set up at the ribbon-cutting on Saturday, and a surgical nurse from Veterinary Care & Specialty Group is bringing two husky puppies that are up for adoption.
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