WILSON – Betty Haag had a dog – and a wish.
The Wilson resident had visited dog parks elsewhere and decided this quiet lakeside village was just the spot for canines to run free in a safe, fenced park. So a few years ago, she set out to persuade local politicians to give the nod and encourage residents to make donations of time and money.
Thanks to her persistence, the Wilson Dog Park will officially open May 22 in the southeast corner of Calvin E. Krueger Park on Lake Road.
“This is a nice addition to the village,” she said. “It’s on the Seaway Trail and on the Wine Trail. It’s a nice rest stop along Route 18.
“Everybody has just been so wonderful in helping us with this,” Haag said. “Everyone’s trying to donate what they can.”
Haag’s constant companion the past two years, Tommy, a lively white Jack Russell terrier, loves the park, which has invited a few curious canines now that the proper signage has been posted. Mayor Bernard “Bernie” Leiker has also tried out the new surroundings with his two Labradoodles, sisters Kiki and Juko.
The dog park is actually two parks in one, separated by a 6-foot-high fence– one area is designated for big dogs and the other is for small dogs. The park also offers shade and benches, and will someday provide water for thirsty dogs.
Haag recently met with Brian Kerwin, who plans to complete his Eagle Scout project by building agility courses at the park.
“We decided to try and get everything donated and instead of selling bricks, we’re selling sections of the fence, so we’ll have plaques posted on the fence,” Haag said.
Haag had two other committee members helping make the park a reality – Leiker and Gary Pettit. In addition, Town Supervisor Joseph Jastrzemski, who is also coordinator of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Work Program, helped provide the heavy lifting on three visits. His workers helped volunteers cut down dead trees, clear vines and poison ivy, and had the brush mulched and returned to the park, where another resident leveled it.
Jastrzemski said, “This is a tremendous asset to the village and the town, and it will bring people in from all over … Betty’s done a tremendous job keeping the ball rolling on this.”
Leiker concurred, adding, “This is going to provide a place for people to take their dogs for exercise, but it will also bring people into this community, and that could increase local business. Especially in the summer, we have a lot of Canadians that come into town and stay on their boats for days, and now they’ll have a place to bring their dogs, too.”
Leiker said he was convinced of its popularity when he visited a dog park while visiting his son when his son lived in Cincinnati.
“On a Friday night, they had a singles night for the dog owners – a cocktail hour, “Yappy Hour,” and it was kind of fun,” he recalled. “This becomes a real social thing for the dogs and for the people, as well. ”
Haag said there is only one other dog park in Niagara County – one on the plateau of Artpark State Park in Lewiston, which draws patrons and their pets from many surrounding communities. She credited Molly Chamberlain, a founding member of the group that brought the Lewiston park to fruition, in helping guide her project.
“We’re very excited to have something new in the park,” said Leiker. “We have the new Visitors Center, and we will be displaying some new outdoor sculpture artwork there. The park is really getting dressed up. Now it’s becoming a real multi-use park. We want to eventually put a walking path around it, and some exercise stations.”
Haag said she hopes to raise enough money to provide a paved walking path from the new gravel parking area to the dog park to make it handicapped-accessible one day. She figures her group has spent about $21,000 so far, all in donations and in-kind services.
“This will be a forever thing for the community,” she said.
Contact Haag at 751-4146 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. A 12-inch by 12-inch plaque may be purchased for $100 to be installed in the dog park. A 10-foot section of fence with a plaque costs $300. Checks may be made to the Wilson Business and Professional Association for the Wilson Dog Park, c/o Betty Haag, 220 Bay St., Wilson, NY 14172-9796.