City dog park evolving

A year has passed since the Marietta Community Dog Park officially opened to the public, and use of the facility continues to grow, according to Teresa Hayes who five years ago began the effort to develop the park.

“Usage of the dog park is huge. I’ve been there when more than 25 cars were in the parking lot,” she said. “And I know some people with pets who have been so impressed with the park that they decided to move into Marietta because we have a nice dog park.”

Located in the 26-acre Jackson Hill Park off Cisler Drive, the dog park is surrounded by wooden rail and metal link fencing and includes a few benches and tables where owners can relax while their pets get some exercise.

Hayes said the dog park is still a work in progress with more improvements planned for the near future. The latest upgrade has been construction of a new activities/picnic shelter at the west end of the park. Materials for the structure were provided by local businesses, including the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, whose employees also assisted with the project.

Apex True Value Hardware has also helped with park projects, providing some building materials at cost and helping with some of the installation. And Hayes said the Healthy Communities Coalition through the Washington County Health Department has provided invaluable assistance with funding and materials.

Other local businesses and organizations have also pitched in, as well as an army of volunteers.

“We couldn’t have afforded to do any of this without the donations and volunteers,” Hayes said.

She estimated between $25,000 and $30,000 has been expended on the projects to date, but the labor and skilled service contributions alone could have cost up to $75,000. And the project has cost the city of Marietta nothing.

“Over the next year we’re looking at making some lighting adjustments, including dusk-to-dawn lighting, developing a section of the dog park for smaller dogs, and installing drinking water fountains for both dogs and humans,” Hayes said.

That would be a real plus, according to Lance Fluharty of Marietta who brings his pet to the dog park regularly.

“I’d like to see a fountain here,” he said. “I bring a jug of water from home now so he can have a drink. But I like this park, and there’s plenty of space for our dogs to run.”

His friend, Colin Brockett, agreed.

“This park definitely fills a big void that no one really knew existed until people started talking about the need for a dog park,” he said. “And Jackson Hill is a great location.”

Marietta City Councilman Harley Noland said Jackson Hill Park used to be a center of community activity, with a pool, picnic areas, a playground and basketball courts. And development of the dog park is helping revive use of the municipal park.

“Now Teresa has put together a Friends of Jackson Hill Park board to plan for future redevelopment of the 20-plus-acre park, in addition to the dog park facilities,” he said. “People are playing basketball there now, and there’s a new shelter just built. And there will be picnic tables and grills installed as well as water fountains.”

Noland said one big improvement would be opening public restrooms as currently there are no operational facilities at the park. But he noted the old pool building does have restrooms that could easily be refurbished.

“We might have to obtain a couple of new toilets, but in the long term public restrooms will be important as the park gets more use,” he said, adding that several of the city’s hiking trails will converge at Jackson Hill and the restrooms would be a great convenience for trail-users.

“Teresa’s group is trying to bring the park back for public use at little or no expense to the city,” Noland said.

Hayes said the Friends of Jackson Hill Park board will be made up of 12 members representing a good cross-section of the community, and she’s trying to recruit younger members in their 20s, 30s, or 40s who will be able to keep moving the park project forward into the future.

“We’re seeking 501c3 status through the Marietta Community Foundation,” she said. “And we’ll be looking for more community participation to help maintain the facilities.”

Hayes said there is a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers with any type of skills, even if they can only give a couple of hours a month.

“We can use all kinds of help,” she said.

Volunteers can register online at www.mariettacommunitydogpark.com.