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A breed of its own: new dog park finds a home in Conway


A park is born, thanks to the generosity and time of volunteers



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The first engraved stone honors Lilly, the dog owned by Jason Stretch of Importech Auto Repairs. Rachael Brown. (click for larger version)
October 15, 2009
Steve Boulter, a member of the Humane Society's board of directors says, "Dog parks have several benefits: dogs that run free are healthier, happier and can socialize with other dogs." Boulter should know — he is one of the main organizers of the dog park and is pleased because his dog, Billy, will benefit too.

How the park came to be

About a year and half ago Boulter says he adopted a rambunctious dog named Billy. There was nowhere in the Mount Washington Valley where Billy could run off-leash, so Boulter took Billy to a dog park in Portsmouth. Boulter says he has visited many dog parks, but the Portsmouth park was an inspiration. "Billy thrived off-leash; it was a sight to behold," says Boulter.

When Boulter returned to the Valley, he started talking with Virginia Moore, executive director of the Conway Area Humane Society, and Anita Burroughs, another board member about the possibility of a park.

"We talked about what we could do. Finances were a problem, but we wanted to give back to the community and help the Humane Society," he says. They didn't have to look far. Right in the Humane Society's backyard is 26 wooded acres. The board members decided to parcel off one acre for the first dog park — which will include a puppy park — in the Mt. Washington Valley.

Built by volunteers

Financial obstacles were met by the huge volunteer effort. "The place was a mess when we began. The brush was so thick you couldn't walk through," says Boulter.

The volunteers began. Glen Builders donated the loam, Jason Stretch, owner of Importech, donated a T-Rex backhoe to help move rocks and do some grading. Arthur's Memorials donated granite benches. Lowe's donated picnic benches, posts for fencing, concrete, the use of a tractor and the labor to install the fencing along with the help of Wayne Karl.

"If it wasn't for Wayne Karl, this wouldn't be happening," says Boulter. Karl, an excavator, donated three days a week to help build the park. Boulter and Karl met in Schouler Park while Karl was walking his dog, Dingo.

What makes a good dog park?

It takes more than just clearing trees and brush; there are many considerations in building a dog park. Dry land and drainage is important.

"We chose this land because it is dry," says Boulter. He also explains that when the trees were cut down, the wood chips were saved and spread throughout the park. The wood chips make for a soft cushion for the dogs' paws. Fencing is important, too. The organizers chose horse fencing. "We installed a no-climb horse fence around the park so if the dogs run into it [the fencing] they won't get hurt," Boulter explains.

Light and trees play an important role, too. "In summer there is beautiful filtered light; it's not hot and in the winter the remaining trees help keep the snow out," he adds.

The park must be clean. Thanks to a donation from Brian and Kathy Ahearn, owners of Four Your Paws Only, the park will have a poop station. The station will be emptied every day. Owners will be responsible for cleaning up after their dogs and the area will generally be self-policing, says Boulter.

The size of the park is vital — there must be enough room for dogs to run free. Lots of obstacles are key to providing opportunities for different types of dogs. Boulter explains that Jack Russell Terriers like to sniff rocks while looking for toads and chipmunks, so there are plenty of rocks in the new park. Golden Retrievers like to run, so there is space. Hound Dogs like to sniff and Short Haired Pointers like open space and to be able to run in one line.

This park is designed around the Conway Area Humane Society's mission to strengthen the animal human bond.

"This park was designed to enhance the human animal bond and to keep it strong," says Boulter.

How to become a member

Keeping the human animal bond strong is a goal for the Humane Society and the community as well.

The park will be open to all on a membership basis. A yearly membership is $50; members will receive a black tag to wear around their necks and will have unlimited access to the park, which will be open 365 days per year from dawn to dusk.

A lifetime membership is $500. Members receive a gold tag in the shape of a bone and the member's name is etched in the stones that border the entrance. Owners must be present with their dogs and dogs must have proper immunizations.

Will they come?

As with any business, getting the word out is important. Boulter says they plan to advertise the park. The dog park will be listed on the popular website: www.dogparkusa.com; the dog park will have its own website and the organizers plan to begin an ad campaign with the numerous pet friendly lodging properties in the Valley to get the word out. Visitors will be welcomed, too — a day pass costs $5.

"The dog friendly hotels will gobble us up," says Andy Orsini, president of the board of directors. The park will also have a Facebook page.

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