Animal instincts

Dog Park Committee makes progress in Lower Makefield Township.

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Since the ’90s, many locals from Lower Makefield Township had a vision. They wanted to see a safe space where the community’s four-legged friends could run around freely. In 2015 the LMT Parks and Recreation Board revisited the idea and brought forth a plan for a community dog park to the township Board of Supervisors. The township applied for a matching grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) which was approved in early 2017.

In 2016, a subcommittee known as the LMT Dog Park Committee was formed to help raise additional funds to support the construction of the first community dog park. The committee is composed entirely of local residents, including president Greg Papazian and vice president Wendy Jacobson-Simon. Each member is a proud dog owner, so they wanted to add something special to the community for pets and other owners alike. While there is a lot involved in the formation of a dog park, the committee is well on its way to making it a reality.

Man’s best friend: The Lower Makefield Township Dog Park Committee is a sub-committee of the Park and Recreation Board, and is composed entirely of local residents. PHOTO: Karen Daddona

The approved matching grant brought the total funding for the park to $150,000. In addition to the grant, the committee has been busy over the past year hosting small fundraising events and working with organizations such as Baskin Robbins, Lower Makefield Farmers Market, PAA Baseball and Softball, Newtown Veterinarian’s Pet Fair, Lower Makefield’s Community Pride Day and Doggiepalooza. At the events, they sell T-shirts, raffle tickets for family memberships to the LMT Pool, dog-themed spirit sticks and gourmet dog-shaped cookies for people and dogs.

Most recently, the LMT Dog Park Committee partnered with Big Oak Citgo in Yardley. Until May 24, one penny from every gallon of gas purchased goes to the dog park efforts. Owner Jane Cooper and her husband Tom are also dog owners, and contacted the committee as part of the Helping Hands Spirit Pump program. According to Cooper, she was able to select a charity to support, and knew she wanted to get involved with the dog park.

“It’s a good thing for the community,” she said.

For a good cause: Big Oak Citgo in Yardley is donating one penny for every galleon of gas sold to the LMT Dog Park Committee until May 24. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Since it began in March, the Big Oak Citgo fundraiser has received a positive response from the community, especially from those who weren’t aware of the cause beforehand. Cooper also set up a donation jar inside the station for those who wish to contribute more.

An even larger amount of money will be collected through sponsorships and memorial and dedication opportunities. Two animal hospitals are already interested in signing the contract, and since the committee just received approval on April 21 from the town solicitor and Park and Recreation Board, Jacobson-Simon says obtaining more sponsors is the main goal right now. The six members will be going door-to-door to local businesses to see if they’d be interested in supporting the park. There are several sponsorship packages that vary by price, include Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

Memorial and dedication opportunities will vary by price as well, and allow someone to have their name or business on specific items in the park, including a water station, bench or tree. There will also be customizable bricks for those who wish to honor their pet.

The location of the dog park will be off Heacock Road, bordered by Covington Road and the railroad tracks at 1950 Covington Road. The total span will be 6.826 acres, and will include separate spaces for small and large dogs. There are also plans for a rotation area, which will be used if one of the spaces gets too muddy or the grass needs to regrow.

“This way there’s never a time when you can’t use it,” Jacobson-Simon said.

The park will charge a membership fee to be determined by the Park and Recreation Board, though township residents will receive a reduced rate. The space will have security cameras, and members will need a key fob for access. A soft opening is expected in November, when the fencing and groundwork is expected to be complete. The official grand opening with the unveiling of the memorials and other amenities will be in spring 2018.

While some residents near the park are a little worried about potential noise, the majority are excited, including the LMT Police. Jacobson-Simon and the committee were approached by an officer at the Newtown Pet Fair who told them he’d use the park every day.

“So the canine department of LMT is requesting this too,” Jacobson-Simon said. “This park is for everyone.”

Board members of the LMT Dog Park Committee, in addition to Papazian and Jacobson-Simon, are secretary Cate Horne, treasurer Mary John Waldman, photographer and designer Karen Daddona, Parks and Recreation liaison Douglas Krauss and AnnaMarie Tonrey.

For more information on the dog park, sponsorship and memorial opportunities, or to make a donation, visit lmtdogpark.com or email lmtdogpark@gmail.com. The committee is welcome to new members looking to help them engage the community. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com