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Group raising funds for dog park in Mechanicsville

Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

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Pole Green Park is close to becoming the next place in the county where dogs can sniff, run and play.

The Friends of Hanover Dog Parks, a group promoting canine-friendly parks, is currently working to establish Hanover’s second park for pooches and the first in the Mechanicsville area.

A yellow lab plays in a wading pool at Hanover's current dog park east of Ashland.

A yellow lab plays in a wading pool at Hanover’s current dog park east of Ashland.

But before the volunteer-run doggy paradise can become a reality, this bunch of dog-lovers will have to raise the necessary funds.

The group estimates the park to cost about $25,000. That price could drop if the group secures building material donations along with volunteers to help construct some park necessities such as a fence or storage, said Caroline Cooke, the chair of Friends of Hanover Dog Park’s board of directors.

Dog-lovers in Hanover can currently exercise their canine friends leash-free at a year-round facility east of Ashland in the Taylor Complex.

“When you have an appropriate place to take a dog for exercise, then you really provide [assistance] to Animal Control,” Cooke said. “They’re not called on to go out and round up a dog that’s gotten out because [the dog] is interested in exercise or [the dog] is distracted and he wants to do something else besides be at home all the time.”

Dog owners who favor letting their canine friends run freely can do so at the dog park without breaking Hanover’s law requiring dogs wear leashes in higher density areas.

In addition to allowing their pups to stretch their legs or play fetch, dog parks can act as an educational forum for dog owners. Cooke said owners socialize and educate each other on dog behavior such as understanding a growl’s meaning as not always a negative sound.

Director of Hanover Parks and Recreation Greg Sager said his department looks forward to the possibility of a new park in the Mechanicsville area, which lacks such animal amenities.

“We’d love to have a [dog] park in eastern Hanover. We know how much use the one here at Taylor gets,” Sager said.

Though the current park’s volume of activity relies heavily on the weather, there have been as many as 50 dog users at one time, said Cooke. She added that a majority of the park’s users hail from Mechanicsville.

Occasionally the park is closed for maintenance preventing park users from letting their dogs exercise freely in the enclosed area during those hours. In late April, the Taylor Park underwent “improvements” such as new hinges on trashcans and the installation of platforms underneath the barkers’ “wading pools.”

In those cases, a second park would give dog enthusiasts and their canines another place to go, Cooke said, preventing dog park frequenters from nixing plans to exercise their pets.

“A dog park provides the mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy,” Cooke said. “A tired dog is a happy dog.”

The Mechanicsville dog park proposal received the blessing of Parks and Recreation and an advisory committee that oversees recreational facilities in the county. Parks and Recreation identified the potential site at Pole Green Park, consisting of about an acre of land in a “quieter area of the park.” The pooch-park-to-be will be located in an area near the park’s entrance that’s currently home to horseshoe pit facilities and a former staff office.

The group applied for IRS recognition as a non-profit or 501 (c) 3 organization and is waiting for approval. Cooke said if approved, the group could accept larger money donations and give their volunteers a chance to write off time spent helping the organization. For instance, Cooke said one volunteer is designing and creating a website.

Until the IRS approves the organization’s request, money can only be acquired in small amounts. In efforts to kick start fundraising, Cooke said the Friends group has already received some donations from supporters and placed donation jars around the county.

“[Friends of Hanover Dog Parks have] been beating the bushes and doing what they can to get the project rolling,” Sager said.