STERLING – Fundraising efforts for a proposed dog park project at Thomas Park are ramping up after almost being aborted, according to project committee members.
The concept of Sterling Bark Park was developed 2 years ago through Facebook conversations between some supporters now on the committee.
“We talked about how we needed a dog park here, and we had supporters sign a petition,” committee member Pat McLeod said.
The group then approached the Sterling Park District, which also formed a committee to study the idea. It was decided that the underused back portion of the park along Lynn Boulevard – anywhere from one-third to half the park – could provide enough space for dogs to run without their leashes.
While the supporters might be long on enthusiasm, they are short on cash. Preliminary plans called for a pond, dock, an agility course, and separate areas for small and large dogs. The cost estimates came in between $150,000 and $200,000 – with about $70,000 of that needed for fencing.
The dog park committee has raised about $5,000 to date, much of it from mailers that were sent to those who had signed the petition. The park district would provide the land if Thomas Park was the chosen site, but that would be where its financial contribution would likely end.
“The park district is not involved financially,” executive director Larry Schuldt said. “The board supports the project and this location as one to consider, but there is no money coming from our end.”
Fundraising momentum hit a wall last year, but the committee said they have refocused their efforts on bringing in enough money to put up the fencing. The small dog and large dog areas would be available, while the other phases of the project could be added when more funds arrive.
“We haven’t given up on the other aspects of the park; we would just do it in phases,” McLeod said.
Despite the fundraising challenges, the committee wants the dog park to be free to the community.
“We wouldn’t have a fee at the beginning, at least,” McLeod said. “We hope we can police it ourselves, but we could discover we have to charge later.”
McLeod thinks the fencing can be done for $50,000 if they can get volunteers to help put it up.
Schuldt said the materials alone would cost about $40,000, and that is a 2-year-old estimate.
“There is quite a bit of square footage here; the fencing is for basically three parks in one – small dog, large dog, and agility area,” Schuldt said. “You need perimeter and internal fencing, which is why is costs so much.”
A fundraiser, with activities for adults, kids and dogs has been planned for Sept. 13 at Cochran’s Pub, 13464 Galt Road in Sterling. There will be events for adults, kids and dogs.
After the September event, the committee also plans to take its fundraising to the next level.
“We’re doing a bigger campaign that will focus on corporations and small businesses,” McLeod said. “Things came to a stop for awhile, but we have some new people with new ideas on the committee, and we are reinvigorated.”
New committee member Brigitte Willett said the recent Sterling Main Street Dog Days festival helped to solidify the troops.
“Some of the ladies approached me at Dog Days, saying they wanted to really get this going again,” she said. “This was almost dead at one point, but we’re committed to getting this first phase finished as soon as possible.”
Schuldt said the dog park particulars will not come before the park board until the funds are available for the fencing. He said the board supports the project and believes Thomas Park is a location to consider.
“What the board does also depends on what we hear from the community,” Schuldt said. “We’ve had some concerns about noise, fear of dogs running loose, and some feedback about aesthetics.”
Schuldt believes the site is as good as any other space that could be found locally.
“It’s somewhat centralized, and it’s a good use of space that is underutilized,” he said. “I told the committee we’ll hang in there with it as long as they will.”
The closest dog parks are in Dixon, Freeport and Clinton, Iowa.
How to help
• A fundraiser, with activities for adults, kids and dogs has been planned for Sept. 13 at Cochran's Pub, 13464 Galt Road in Sterling. There will be events for adults, kids and dogs. The dogs will be front and center from noon to 3 p.m., competing for prizes in several contests. The dogs will go home for a nap and the activities will continue at 4 p.m. Kids games will be set up, while the adults entertain themselves with a bags tournament, silent auction, raffles, a cakewalk, bake sale and other activities. There will be plenty to eat, starting with pulled pork dinner, and a DJ will provide music. Doggie tattoos will be done for donations.
• A bucket brigade is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Sterling Walmart.
• T-shirts have been made to help the cause. They are $15 for sizes youth 14 to adult extra large, and $17 for anything larger. They will be available at the fundraiser.
• Donations also can be made by check to the Sterling Parks Foundation, in care of Sterling Bark Park, and dropped off at any park district facility.
For more information, or to make silent auction donations, call Pat McLeod at 815-631-5345, or Brigitte Willett at 815-631-2075, or visit the Sterling Bark Park Facebook page.