BENNINGTON — With thanks to those responsible and the simultaneous cutting of a blue ribbon by a dozen or so pairs of scissors, the new Bennington Dog Park at Willow Park was declared open on Saturday.
The park is "our community treasure, and one that we and our canine companions will enjoy for years to come," said Susan Armstrong, one of the project's three founders, in brief remarks before the ribbon-cutting.
Construction of the park was funded through $25,000 in private donations. The town obtained bids on building the chain-link fence, the project's major cost, and provided the space, a tree-shaded half-acre near Willow Park's volleyball courts. The new park is visible from Park Street.
Armstrong, Judy Murphy and Nancy Boardman, a longtime Second Chance Animal Center board member who helped create the Manchester Dog Park 12 years ago, proposed the idea of a dog park to Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks last summer. Visits to the Manchester facility provided ideas on fencing, gate placement, overall design and safety.
"All of us owe an enormous thanks to the Town of Bennington," Armstrong said. "We thank Dan Monks, assistant town manager, and his staff — who asked not to be mentioned by name. They took our dream and made it happen. No words could express our gratitude. You rock!"
Armstrong thanked the project's major sponsors, each of whom, it seems, has a canine connection. Lundgren Subaru is "a dog-friendly business that often features cute dogs in their advertising;" Pat Winburn of Winburn Law Offices made his dog, Alfie, a part of his recent run for governor; Cindy Thomson and Brooke Thomson Drew of Bennington Lanes and Northside Dairy Bar are dog lovers; and Kathy Hoisington of Hoisington Realty "will be enjoying the dog park with her dog, Bebe."
Sponsor Dr. Peter Geanellis of the Mount Anthony Animal Hospital "long had a dream of a dog park," she added. "His huge donation early on and his enthusiasm provided the spark that got the fundraising engine running."
Select Board member Tom Haley, who was not present but provided prepared remarks to Armstrong, called the new park "a boon to Bennington, not only for our current residents and their canine relations, but as an added attraction to dog owners who are considering making Bennington their home.”
Armstrong noted that the dog park will be self-governing, with all users expected to follow the rules, pick up after their dogs and show consideration for one another.
Dogs were not in attendance at Saturday's event. Organizers made a point of asking people to leave their dogs at home, out of concern that the number of attendees and the presence of food might lead to safety issues at the ceremony.