A grand opening for Floyd County's new dog park on the shoals side of Ridge Ferry Park is tentatively scheduled for May 5 — National Dog Park Day.

"Lisa Smith in the tourism office wants to make it a promotional event. I think we can get everything done by then," County Manager Jamie McCord said Thursday.

Still to come are doggie bag dispensers and receptacles for the waste, along with water features and maybe a wash station. McCord said he'd also like to put some benches in the pens, which are situated under the trees near the river trail.

But the park's been in nearly constant use since the fencing went up in February and the occupants Thursday afternoon seemed content.

Jade Wells and Michael Payne brought their own folding chairs, water, waste bags, toys and treats. Wells said they come several times a week with Hermes, their dachshund-beagle mix, and their labradoodle, Trolley.

An informal community of regulars is forming — "That guy is always here," Payne said, pointing to a man sitting under a far tree with a book. "I don't know his name, but I know his dog" — and Wells said they're a considerate group.

"I love having the three fenced areas. If there's an issue with one dog, the owner will move to another fence and it can still run around," she said. "There's a lady with a German shepherd named Annie that was shy when she first came. Annie's really gotten out of her shell now and plays with all the other dogs."

Payne said he's glad the county hasn't yet posted a lengthy list of rules. Some places ban pit bull mixes, he noted, but the ones that come to Ridge Ferry Park are sociable and well-behaved.

He also was interested to hear that the electronic key fob entry system may not be implemented. Currently, dog owners just lift the gate latches to get in.

"Most of the people who come here are dreading that, because they think it might mean a fee," Payne said. "We've been to a lot of dog parks and you don't have to pay to get into any of them."

McCord told members of the city-county Joint Services Committee Thursday that the RFID system for the fobs is installed but they're having second thoughts about requiring pet owners to register for access. The control system is still needed for security, he added.

Lights also have been installed, the cameras are up and the contractor, Multi-Craft Construction Services of Rome, is completing the internet connection. Expenses so far are at $40,935.

"We still have about $25,000 worth of work to do and there's only $5,000 left in the budget," McCord said. "But we'll figure it out."

The 2013 SPLOST package had $25,000 earmarked for a small dog park next to PAWS, the public animal welfare services facility at 99 North Ave. The idea for the project grew, however, and the Floyd County Commission added another $20,000 to the budget. 

McCord said a number of individuals and organizations had offered to boost the pot early on, to have a nicer facility, and he'll be checking in the community to see if the offers are still good.