PAWTUCKET — You could see it on the tired but happy faces of Peaches, Chloe, Kevin, Charlie, Tinkerbelle, Oso, Lucy and Willow Spitfire: the city’s new dog park is going to be a howling success.
On Saturday morning, the main proponents of the dog park, including City Councilors Albert Vitali, Mark Wildenhain and Christopher O’Neill, Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer Herb Weiss, Animal Control Director John Holmes, Sheryl Rennick and her daughter, Mackenzie, and others joined Mayor Donald Grebien for a ceremonial “leash cutting” to officially open the venue.
After that, it was “off to the races,” as the dozen or so dog owners who had arrived for the park’s debut unleashed their animals in either the “small dog” or “large dog” areas of the enclosed grassy field that was formerly home to the Slater Park
Lawn Bowling Club. With few exceptions, most of the dogs took to the park immediately, racing happily around the space and playing with their fellow canines while their owners mingled and chatted nearby.
“This is great,” said Amber Kaltenstein, of Pawtucket, as she watched her Weimaraner, Charlie, frolic around. “I’ve taken him to the dog park on Gano Street in Providence, but that’s not even really a dog park. And this is in walking distance to my house.”
Pawtucket residents Ashley and Benjamin Guevara, who had brought their Australian Shepherd, Kevin, to the park’s debut, were also impressed. “Our backyard is not very big, so this is going to be great,” Ashley said.
Karin Donovan, another Pawtucket resident who had urged city officials to create a dog park at the former lawn bowling green, said, “It’s very nice.” She said she had frequented a dog park in Barrington with her pet, Willow Spitfire, and was happy to now have a similar venue closer to home.
Mackenzie Rennick, the 10-year-old girl whose presentation to the City Council on the dog park helped convince city officials to give the plan a try, watched delightedly as the dogs of all shapes and sizes explored Slater Parks’ new feature. “It’s amazing. I love it!” she stated.
Rennick and her mother, Sheryl, are part of a Dog Park Committee that has been involved with fundraising for the ongoing maintenance of the park. Other members of the committee include Donna Noonan, Crystal Parfit, Ellie Crombie, Debra Spellman and Joanne Palazzo.
The group held a bake sale, silent auction and other events inside the nearby carousel during the day to benefit the dog park.
In his opening remarks, Mayor Donald Grebien described the dog park as a positive thing for the city that was made possible with minimal costs involved. He noted that the project was something that had been discussed by dog lovers for about 10 years, but it took finding the right location, along with addressing any insurance and liability concerns, for the park to finally become a reality.
“It was great when this site became available,” said Grebien. He added that for a city with a high population density such as Pawtucket, and where not everyone has yards, the park is another recreational asset for city residents to enjoy.
Grebien said that among a “long list of supporters,” he wanted to single out Councilor Albert Vitali, Animal Control Director John Holmes, Mackenzie Rennick, and Herb Weiss, for their persistence in establishing a dog park. He noted that Weiss, who had always talked of wanting to take his Labrador Retriever, Murray, to the dog park, unfortunately had to put down the 14-year-old dog due to illness just a few days ago.
In his remarks during the ceremony, Councilor Albert Vitali said, “In tough economic times, it’s always nice to have something that’s a positive effect. I think this will be a wonderful thing for the city and its pet owners. And good luck to the dogs!”
After the ribbon-cutting, Grebien’s own two dogs, a Yorkie named Peaches and a “Chihaukie” (a Yorkie/Chihuahua mix) named Chloe led the way into the small dog section. Councilor Christopher O’Neill had also brought his Beagle, Lucy, to the park’s inauguration. They were soon joined by a parade of other under 30-pound animals, while the bigger dogs filtered into the adjacent side of the park.
John Holmes, the city’s Animal Control Director, noted that hundreds of people visit Slater Park on a regular basis to walk their dogs anyway, and said he thinks the new dog area “fits right in with the park.” He noted that several benches have been installed around the dog park and said, “It’s a place where people can come with their dogs and meet other people.”
Holmes added, “We will be trying this out for a period of time, and if it works, it will continue. We want people to enjoy it.”
Herb Weiss also pointed out that the city has a lot of elderly and disabled residents who aren’t able to take their dogs on a long walk. “This is a place they can come, sit, and give their dog exercise,” he said. He added that a dog park is also considered by many realtors to be an amenity that can increase the value of the houses located nearby.