SALEM – Wood chips flew as Otis and Henry dashed in happy circles around the new Salem Rotary Dog Park.
They and canine friends Mango and Cookie were the first lucky dogs to check out the new park on Sept. 22, when members of the Dog Park Committee and their pets gave the facility on Indiana Street their approval.
It was an overcast and humid day, not idea for running and playing outside, but Otis and Henry, the pugs who live with Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess and his wife, did not care. They dashed in circles through the wood chips, drank water out of the communal bowl, and leapt on any person they thought could lend them a bit of attention.
The dogs and Salem City Council Member Lisa Garst’s Mango, a yellow Lab, and Cookie, a border collie-shepherd mix, were inaugural visitors at the Salem Rotary Dog Park that will officially open with a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremonies Oct. 7.
September 22 was the test run for members of the Dog Park Committee and their canines. All four dogs, judging by their lolling tongues and antics across the large, fenced-in area, would have rated the park five stars.
The facility features a soft ground covering of wood chips, foot-pump water fountains that circulate fresh water, a double gate to make it easier to keep the dogs inside the fenced-in area, tunnels to play in and plenty of space to run.
There are two separate sections for the dogs, one only for dogs under 25 pounds labeled “Small Dogs” and the other labeled “Large Dogs.”
Smaller dogs are allowed in the Large Dog area, but members of the Dog Park Committee said they believed there should be a place smaller dogs could enjoy without being overwhelmed by the larger breeds.
Salem Rotary Dog Park can also boast being the first park in Salem to have LED, energy-efficient lighting.
Although for the most part, the dog park is complete, the committee still has many plans. In October, trees and vines will be added for shade and privacy. Five benches will be placed in the park for owners to relax on while their dogs run leash-less. A local Eagle Scout plans to build a shelter in the park, also to provide shade.
There are also plans to have an educational facility on site where there will be veterinarians to dispense knowledge on breeds, vaccines and other information.
By spring 2012, committee members plan to have a Friends of the Dog Park group of volunteers to aid with general maintenance, tree planning and fundraising.
Dogs and humans alike have been waiting for a dog park. Dogs are not allowed, even on leashes, in other Salem parks. Members of the Dog Park Committee said there have been requests for additional greenways and parks, including dog-friendly parks, for years.
Because the city already owned the acreage next to the Salem Animal Shelter, it seemed to call for a dog park to be placed there, committee members said.
Teri Atkins, Salem’s special projects manager who headed up most of the organization for the dog park, is a member of the committee along with Garst, Boggess, Salem Planner Benjamin Tripp, Streets Director Mike Tyler and Lt. Bill Bandy of the Salem Police Department, Animal Control Division. Construction of the park started in January.
A sign inside the dog park names the top four sponsors who donated money to construct the dog park. First is the Salem Rotary Club that donated $15,000, and three businesses that each donated $5,000 for the park: Yokohama Tire Corp.; John M. Oakey and Son Funeral Service, and Klub Kanine.
Individuals and other organizations contributed towards the dog park by making donations in the memory of past pets.
Grand opening activities will start at 11:25 a.m. on Oct. 7 with a ribbon cutting, followed by introduction of sponsors, a pooch parade with Salem Red Sox mascot Mugsy, a rescue dog demonstration and contests such as look-alike dogs and owners.
Next door to the Salem Rotary Dog Park the Salem Animal Shelter will have an open house, with tours of the shelter, special adoption discounts on dogs and cats and time to meet the pets waiting for new homes.
– By Jen Giannini, intern writer