“We are very close to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Evan Blakley, who has been helping shepherd the Denison Dog Park project.
Construction of the park has taken longer than anyone imagined, but the project is far enough along that a soft winter opening will likely take place, he said.
Klein Fence Company, of Earling, was at the site, located on 6th Avenue North near Tucker’s Pond, on Monday to install posts for the perimeter fence.
The entryway to the park is essentially complete.
Brick pillars that denote the beginning of the park have been built and are nearly finished.
Denison Job Corps students put in the foundations and Slechta Masonry, of Denison, constructed the pillars; all that is left is for caps to be placed on each pillar.
Denison Hardscapes laid the pavers for the entryway and Carlyle Memorials engraved the pavers that denote donations to the project.
Denison Hardscapes returned to the park on Monday to do some dirt work and grading, Blakley said.
“There are some grading adjustments we need to do to make the park attractive and, more importantly, we want the park to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible so folks in wheelchairs and scooters will be able to visit the park,” he said. “We want a nice, gentle slope into the entry of the park.”
Klein Fence Company will be back in the next few weeks to create the park entrance, which will feature self-closing gates to keep dogs from escaping.
Some work will have to take place in the next few months.
“We will depend on volunteers to come in on some workdays yet this winter, so we’ll have to bundle up,” Blakley said.
Volunteers will place the top rail along the fence posts.
“Once the fence structure is complete, we will be able to stretch and mount the chain link,” he said.
“That will take a few different workdays. The more folks that come and volunteer, the faster we’ll be able to get it finished.”
Blakley is working on putting together a set of park rules that the Denison Parks and Rec Board can adopt for the park.
He has been researching the rules at dog parks around the country.
“We need to find what works for our community and make sure that we have a park that is clean and an asset to the community,” he said.
The park will depend in large part on users being their own watchdogs.
“It’s important that we have good rules in place that are clearly visible,” Blakley said.
If the soft opening takes place this winter, work for the spring will include additional landscaping and signage.
A water fountain and donated benches will also be added.
Blakley said a grant is being applied for that would provide funds for waste receptacles matching those in uptown Denison.
Waste bag dispensers will be mounted to the fencing at the park.
“Those will need to be in place before we can open,” he said.
Donor recognition items, such as a bronze plaque for a boulder and signs that name each of the three park sections for the top three donors, will also be added.
“Some of those things will need to be in place before we can open and some of them will come afterwards,” Blakley said.
Astroturf will be added to the high-traffic areas where grass would not survive.
Blakley said once the park is completed, fundraisers may take place each spring to improve the park or add amenities.
The blank spaces in the entryway can be replaced with engraved pavers used as part of additional fundraising.
He encourages members of the public to visit the park site to see how far the work has progressed.
“People should go out and take a look,” he said. “Just be careful where you step; there may still be some holes or mud out there.”
Blakley said the project has taken far longer than any of the organizers would have anticipated.
Land acquisition and legal issues took up much of the time.
He noted that the project is being accomplished without taxpayer funding.
“It is all through donations and grants,” he said.
“For a while, a lot of the holdup was in fundraising but we also had a number of contractors and entities that have donated to the park’s completion through in-kind labor or greatly discounted labor.”
The in-kind and reduced-rate labor had to be accepted at the rate it was offered, he pointed out.
“In the long term, that will be a better tradeoff for our donors and the community,” he said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Donation forms for individuals interested in donating may be picked up at Denison City Hall or at the Chamber & Development Council (CDC) of Crawford County office.
A separate fund for the project is being managed by the city.
Blakley said several thousand dollars will be needed to complete the last details of the project.