Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of dog owners, the city has been awarded a grant to plant trees at the dog park in City Park, providing shade in the area dedicated to small dogs.
Mayor Scott Avedisian said last Thursday that a group of Warwick citizens who use the dog park regularly banded together and applied for a grant to improve the dog park.
“The community took ownership of this,” said Avedisian.
The grant came as a welcome surprise to city officials.
The $2,000 grant is from Nutro Products Inc., an environmentally friendly pet food brand under the Mars Pet Care division of Mars Incorporated (which also owns the Mars candy brands such as M&Ms). The brand’s philosophy is to create a better world for dogs, and they provide 30 grants each year to dog parks throughout the country. While hundreds of applications come in for grants each year, the involvement of the community, what they have and what they need all play into the final decision.
“It makes a difference if the town takes care of everything or the community does,” explained Wayne Renfrew of Nutro.
The $2,000 will go toward planting more trees near the area designated for small dogs that currently has no shade; additional benches will also be brought in to provide seating for owners while their dogs enjoy the park.
Avedisian pointed out that the company is a tremendous help, but the best part of this is that it came from a community effort. “Not only is the company being helpful, this is really a community initiative,” said Avedisian. “They like what we have and they wanted to do more. You want this to happen.”
According to the mayor, the residents who advocated for and use the dog park take on much of the policing of the facility, including cleaning up after their pets, regular cleaning and maintenance of the space and ensuring no aggressive animals are allowed in the facility.
One of the leaders in applying for this grant was Dr. John Concannon. He regularly brings his 4-year-old beagle Gaspee (who was born during Gaspee Days) to the park.
“She loves going to the dog park. It’s great,” said Concannon.
Concannon explained that he usually keeps Gaspee in the area designated for smaller dogs, which currently has no trees. “There’s absolutely horrible heat. During the summer, you’d have to go later in the day or at night,” said Concannon.
Additionally, he and other owners noticed a lot of erosion caused by the wind blowing sand throughout the area.
They believed the answer would be to find a way to plant trees in the area but without putting a strain on the city.
“We don’t want the city to pay for infrastructure for the dog park,” added Concannon.
He began the research and soon discovered the Dog Park Improvement Grant from Nutro.
“I thought it was appropriate,” said Concannon. “I created an environmentally friendly application to send to them.”
The group first applied two years ago but was not accepted. They reapplied this year and things worked out.
Mickey Rooney, director of Parks and Recreation, said the dog park was created because there was no other place where dogs could be let off their leashes. While the park has become incredibly popular, even with Rhode Islanders from outside of Warwick calling to find out more information, Rooney explained that the most common complaint is a lack of shade during the warmer months of the year.
Concannon added that adding more benches to the space would be nice. Currently, he and the other owners leave older plastic lawn chairs at the park that they no longer use in their homes to provide seating, as well as old dog bowls. But a few of the chairs broke due to the recent ice and snowstorms.
Looking forward, Concannon believes the group will continue to look for ways to improve and provide for the dog park without using city resources. One thing they are interested in is getting a rain catch barrel and that water could be used for the dogs if owners forget to bring their own water that day.
“We do have a good community. We all know each other, usually by our dogs’ names. Everyone has a good time,” said Concannon.
The dog park was opened in December 2005 and expanded in spring 2006 to include a second area dedicated to smaller dogs.
“We never believed four pieces of chain link fence would be such a hit,” said Avedisian.
As long as the snow melts quickly, Rooney explained that the city would put the job out to bid and hopefully get the trees planted by late spring.
The dog park in City Park is a 33,000-square-foot fenced-in facility where dog owners can let their dogs off their leashes and allow them some space to run and play in the center of the city.
In July 2006, Rhode Island Monthly magazine named the park the Editors’ Poll pick for best dog park in the state, naming the 33,000 square feet of grass and dirt, shady spots and fire hydrants as some of the assets making it a “doggone good facility.”