The big day is finally within sight — Fort Oglethorpe will have its own dog park, beginning with an Oct. 19 grand opening celebration that will feature fun and activities for all. It’s now safe to tell Buddy and Bella that they’ll have their very own playground.

Here’s the story of how the dog park came to be.

A little over three years ago, after attending a Georgia Municipal Association Conference in Savannah, council member Rhonda James proposed a dog park for Fort Oglethorpe. City Council approved the idea and allocated $15,000 in the 2017 operating budget for the project.

City staff researched the potential cost of getting a dog park up and running and settled on a figure of $40,000. They submitted a request for a transfer of $25,000 from the city’s general fund to proceed with the dog park and were turned down by City Council, which directed them to seek grants and community funding and involvement to move forward.

In December 2017, a survey of the public was conducted to determine whether there was enough interest to make the project worth further pursuing. Of the 235 people who responded to the survey, 90% said they had at least one dog and 89% said they believed Fort Oglethorpe would benefit by having a dog park.

In February 2018, the first meeting of the Bark City Dog Park Committee convened. A letter was drafted asking DBJ Realty, which owns the property Hardee’s sits on, if they would be willing to donate a piece of land behind the restaurant.

The third meeting of the dog park committee resulted in a $1,000 donation and the setup of a web site to advertise the dog park and to sell personalized pavers to help fund it.

Rico Monuments committed to donating several pallets of clay pavers.

Over the next several weeks, the Bark City Committee set up at Patriotism at the Post and at a Petsense (Fort Oglethorpe) Vet Clinic to sell pavers and raise money.

On July 9, the committee received the good news that DBJ Realty would donate 0.76 acres for the dog park. City Council accepted the donation and recorded the value of the land — $132,422.40 — as revenue to the general fund.

In the meantime, the Bark City Committee was continuing its fundraising. A fundraiser at Moe’s netted $300.

In August, the committee worked out a partnership with leaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. LFO teacher Becky Hardinger’s architectural drawing and design students would design the dog park. Teacher Pat Linz’s metal-working students would create two tables and six benches for the park.

In September, the Bark City Committee partnered with UCTV to hold a live auction and raised over $2,000. Nine days later, they raised $200 at a “Yappy Hours” event at Buffalo Wild Wings in Fort Oglethorpe. In October, they partnered with North Georgia Animal Alliance for a “Howl-O-Ween” event.

In February 2019, City Council awarded a contract to improve drainage of the dog park area. CTi Engineering donated $3,600 worth of services to design improvements needed to the area. The Bark City Committee raised another $225 at a second Moe’s event.

In March, VCA Catoosa Animal Hospital donated $500 for the dog park.

In April, city council awarded a contract for the installation of a dog park fence to AllStar Fence in the amount of $16,350. The fence will be installed over the two weeks before the grand opening of the park.

Donations from individuals and businesses have poured in to make a dog park a reality in Fort Oglethorpe, says City Manager Jenny Simpkins.

On Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. till noon, the Bark City Fort Oglethorpe Dog Park and the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce will partner to hold a grand opening for the public. The dog park is located at 73 Council St., behind Hardee’s restaurant, which is located on Battlefield Parkway.

After the grand opening, Bark City Fort Oglethorpe Dog Park will be open daily from dawn to dusk. Rules will be posted at the park.

Simpkins says it has been a true community project and she’s excited about having a safe place for dogs to play off-leash and for dog owners to get to know one another.

“The dog park project has been funded by the city of Fort Oglethorpe and nearly 40 community partners,” says Simpkins. “We are still selling personalized pavers and taking donations to help with the upkeep and improvement of the park.”

More information about the park and pavers is available at https://fortogov.com/dogpark.

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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