Dog park

There is no underestimating the potential of a committed grassroots movement. We single out the Friends of the Hays Dog Park as a prime example.

Just more than two years ago, a loosely organized group of dog-owners with a blog and cause set out to establish what they said was missing from the community's list of amenities -- a dog park. These residents envisioned a place where canines, large and small, could exercise and socialize free from their leash.

Upon hearing the preliminary cost estimate of $35,000, we envisioned one of those projects you hear about every so often through the years and repeatedly being mildly surprised the movement remained alive.

Not the case with these friends. Local residents such as Kim Perez, Laurie Mortinger, Virginia Jacobs, Jodi Steltz, Cathy Reeves, Bunnie Bowen, Pat Geier and many others have been working like dogs to ensure area pooches have room to roam.

The various bake sales, car washes, dog washes, cookoffs, garage sales, raffles, T-shirt sales, and memorials earmarked for the cause have been adding up. A donation of $10,000 earlier this year in honor of the late Henry and Juliette Schwaller boosted the coffers tremendously. Last week at the Hays City Commission meeting, FHDP announced it had more than $50,000 in the bank.

That was enough for commissioners to greenlight Phase 1 and part of Phase 2.

Hays is going to get a dog park.

Using a 6.5-acre tract of land east of Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex donated by the city, park supporters see three phases to the project. The first includes fencing a 1-acre lot for small dogs, plus an access road, parking lot, staging area, water lines, a message center, some seating and signage. Phase 2 is fencing in a larger area for large dogs, more seating, signage and another water station and Phase 3 will be primarily shelters and seating.

What commissioners unanimously authorized from Phase 2 was the fence, which becomes more cost-effective when installing all at once. Other items can be put in place as the money is raised.

"They've really worked hard," said Jeff Boyle, director of parks for the city of Hays, earlier this fall. "I think they've had a lot of fellow dog owners and citizens that have supported this all along and really came through for them."

We have no doubt the committed Friends of the Hays Dog Park will realize the entire project. Thus far, the visioning, planning and fundraising all have been top-notch. Group president Kim Perez will maintain the motivation.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net