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.