It was unanimously pronounced a success, although amenities have yet to be installed and the public facility is not technically open.

"It isn't?" laughed Hayley Sirmons, who came with Aaron Moore and their dogs Dobbie, a 13-year-old rat terrier, and 4-year-old Eska, a border collie mix.

No one knows who did the unofficial honors, but the three pens were already in use when Kayla Caldwell and Jesse Nicholson arrived with Vader, a black Lab puppy, and Leia, a heeler.

"I was driving by and saw a man with his dog, so we came out too," Kayla said. "There were dogs here when we got here so we went to another area until they could check each other out. They liked each other."

Even elderly Dobbie interacted with new friends as she hobbled around sniffing under the dead leaves, until the tiny terrier got a little tired of the young dogs gamboling around her and had to be picked up.

Marcel and Denise DaSilva said they were pleasantly surprised to see the park when they drove in from Centre, Alabama. They often bring their pound-rescue Murray to Ridge Ferry Park, and said having a centralized gathering place is even better.

"He's in training to be a therapy dog at Mountain View Hospital in Gadsden and this is great for socialization," Marcel said.

Questioned about what else they'd like to see in the bare-bones park, the dog-owners weren't asking for anything beyond what's already on the list.

"The only thing I thought we need was a garbage can," Denise said.

Aaron also mentioned a trashcan and bags to clean up after the dogs, "and maybe a few benches." Hayley said a water fountain, although someone had thoughtfully left out a metal water bowl that the dogs took turns sharing. They'll be the last items added.

County Manager Jamie McCord said last week that contractor Multi-Craft Construction Services of Rome will be installing security cameras and an electronic entry system next, as the weather allows. The park is expected to officially open by the spring.

Pet owners will get an electronic key fob to enter the gate when they register their dogs at PAWS, the public animal welfare services building on North Avenue. Jesse said he likes the idea of limiting entry to those who have produced rabies vaccination certificates.

The 2013 special purpose, local option sales tax package contained $25,000 for the project and the Floyd County Commission added another $20,000 when they realized the seed money wasn't enough.

Supporters in the Rome-Floyd County Planning Department — who hosted two pop-up dog parks last year — are actively seeking grants to extend the budget. PAWS also is taking donations, which will be put toward extra furnishings such as agility courses.