Dogs can now run free in Valdese – at least in the new quarter acre Dog Park. At the park’s grand opening, sixty dogs frolicked freely in the grass as more than 100 people watched. The opening was the culmination of Friends of the Valdese Rec’s efforts over the past 18 months with fundraising and managing contractors.
Friends of the Valdese Rec, Inc. (FVR) was offered a $5,000 grant from the Mull Foundation under one condition. FVR had to raise $5,000 from the community to match the funds. To make sure the grant was matched and to bring in more funds, Farris Insurance added an additional $5,000 match. With the matches met and exceeded, FVR President Beth Heile worked with Patton Construction to clear and grade the site, McNeely Fencing to install the 5-foot-tall fence, and Mow-Town Landscaping to add topsoil and sod. FVR volunteers watered the sod daily to make sure it took root.
To open the double safety gate to the public for the first time, the Farris Insurance family cut the ribbon and all dogs entered for an afternoon of fun. “It was pure joy to see all the people and their pets turn out to the grand opening,” said owner Kevin Farris. “The entire Farris staff has been behind this project from the start.” Continuing to raise money for the dog park, Farris Insurance is selling raffle tickets for a park bench carved in the black bear motif. Raffle tickets are on sale for 3 tickets for $20.00 dollars and the bench is on display in their Valdese office.
A fun addition to the park is a 6-foot bone that serves as a bench for people and an obstacle for dogs. The bone was funded by former Valdese resident and active community member Diana Crawford in memory of her late husband, Barry, who was a local attorney, and poodle, Whoopi. Crawford attended the ceremony and reminisced, “Barry and I enjoyed taking our poodles, Whoopi and Bentley, to McGalliard Falls. We often talked about how nice it would be if Valdese had a dog park where they could run free and play with other dogs. Bentley and I are happy to see this dream come true.”
For those kids who did not have a four-legged friend at the event, Friends of the Valdese Rec gave them a stuffed dog. However, if visitors were interested in having a real dog of their own, Burke County Animal Services (BCAS) was on hand with an adoptable dog. A big surprise of the day was a donation to the park from Burke Animal Services Foundation, Inc (BASF) who had several members in attendance. Kay Draughn, BASF Vice President presented a check to FVR President Beth Heile. With the gift, Draughn said, “The Foundation Directors believe it’s important to support our friends and neighbors who are working hard to improve the lives of companion animals in Burke County. Kudos to the Friends of the Valdese Rec for turning their vision of creating a first-class dog park into a reality.” The gift was matched by Draughn and her husband David.
BCAS also had a handout on dog park etiquette. Kaitlin Settlemyre, Director of BCAS, summarized the courtesies as “Being responsible for your dog(s) by cleaning up after your dog and being respectful of other people and dogs who are using the park. It’s very important to make sure your dog(s) are properly vaccinated so the park can be a fun and safe place for all.”
As an added treat, Lucky Dogs food truck was on hand with hot dogs and ice cream. Menu items are named for dogs, such as the Poodle (hot dog with pimento cheese) and the Beagle (hot dog with chili, mustard, ketchup). Valdese residents Scott and Michelle Rogers co-owns the food truck with Michelle’s father, Wayne Annas. Michelle Rogers was pleased to be a part of the celebration, commenting “Growing up in Valdese and raising our children in Valdese, we are always excited to be part of community events. Especially something that will be so positive for the community, like Lakeside Park.”
The dog park is not the only feature at Valdese Lakeside Park, located at 1149 Lake Rhodhiss Drive in Valdese. In welcoming the crowd, FVR President Beth Heile reviewed the Valdese Lakeside Park plans to say, “The dog park is a continuation of amenities at the park. Last November brought the parking lot, restrooms, greenway, and overlook along with additional hiking trail by FVR volunteers. The bridge creating a connection to McGalliard Falls Park will be ready by July and the fishing pier with kayak launch will start in late Fall. As funds become available, completing the greenway, mountain bike trails, a picnic pavilion and disc golf are in the master plan.”