Merrimack fetches $25K for dog park
MERRIMACK – After years of campaigning for a dog park, Merrimack dog lovers got good news Friday, July 31 when the town received $25,000 toward a future park in the much-anticipated national Bark for Your Park contest hosted by Pet Safe.
Out of 16 finalists from across the country, Merrimack tallied enough online votes to come in first place for medium-sized communities – a runner-up position to the grand-prize winner – with a final vote count of 16,582.
Town Councilor Bill Boyd praised the Friends of the Merrimack Dog Park group for getting out the vote. "This is really a celebration for everyone involved in the dog park," said Boyd, who noted that park advocates have been chasing the cause for nearly five years.
"This is their shining moment. They deserve a lot of thanks for their hard work," he said.
The Friends of the Merrimack Dog Park group petitioned town officials and residents for support by attending town meetings, waging social media campaigns and staging a presence at local events.
The future park is due to take over an acre-sized clearing near the entrance of Wasserman Park off Naticook Road. The Bark for Your Park winnings will be combined with more than $26,000 that has already been raised by the Friends of the Merrimack Dog Park group. They hope to break ground as early as this fall.
Boyd said the project is good news not only for dog owners, but also from an economic and community development standpoint. "Wasserman Park continues to be a crowning jewel for the town, and the new dog park reaffirms Wasserman as a great place to visit," he said.
Merrimack Parks and Recreation Director Matt Casparius said he’s "thrilled" about the contest results, and expects the project to move forward as soon as the Town Council can approve the prize money.
"I absolutely look forward to endorsing and accepting money for the dog park," Boyd said. He said if the paperwork from Pet Safe is received in time, the council can vote on the funds at their next meeting, Aug. 20.
"We’re so thankful for all the support from the community. We’re just overwhelmed with happiness," said Holly Morales, park advocate and member of the Friends of the Merrimack Dog Park.
Morales waited for the contest results at a gathering hosted by Pet’s Choice in Merrimack. "When the winning names went up on the screen, everyone was just overjoyed – we opened champagne. It was a party atmosphere," she said.
Looking forward to the next town council meeting, Morales said council approval paves the way for the project to request proposals from vendors.
The contest is hosted annually by Pet Safe, a pet supply retail company. The contest kicked off in May, with a preliminary round running from May 13 to June 10, and the final round spanning June 17 to July 22.
The grand prize winner, Jacksonville, Ill., will receive $100,000 to construct a park. The other three runner-up prizes of $25,000 go to Epworth, Iowa, Watkinsville, Ga. and Fort Gratoit, Mich.
See more information about Pet Safe and the Bark for Your Park contest online at www.petsafe.net/barkforyourpark.