contributed by Lauren Chouinard
In the fall of 2009, a woman was in the off-leash dog area in Amazon Park with her eight pound dog and her five year old daughter. They were about to exit the park when a very large dog attacked and killed the small dog, traumatizing her daughter and other onlookers. The woman vowed to do something so that this sort of thing would not happen again. She petitioned the City of Eugene to create an off-leash area exclusively for small dogs under 25 pounds. They told her they didn’t have funding for new park infrastructure…that she would have to generate interest for her idea in the community and pay for construction and ongoing maintenance through private donations.
Over the next two years a small group of dedicated small dog lovers worked with the City of Eugene Parks and Open Space staff to find a location and navigate a public input process. It was finally approved to create a 1/2 acre small dog area in the southeast corner of the existing “all dog” off-leash area.
The volunteer group began soliciting donations from community members, pet stores, veterinarians, and any anyone who had an interest in providing small dogs with a safe environment in which to play and socialize. We raised $10,000 and began with the construction of a fence and gating system to separate the “small dog” from the “all dog” area. We commissioned a decorative archway from a local sculptor, Jud Turner. The whimsical archway reads: “Little Dog Corner – Where Small Dogs Run Free.”
The next phase was the construction of a water station so that dogs could stay hydrated and also lounge in a couple of small “kiddie” pools. The water station has a sophisticated drainage system so that the water drains to a collection box just outside the fence in a grassy area.
The final phase was to construct a shelter over an existing concrete slab and picnic table. This turned out to be far more complex than originally anticipated as the City of Eugene required a structure that was designed by an architect and approved by an engineer. It also required a building permit. The shelter was our last big expense that required an innovative and collaborative approach to raise an additional $12,000.
To jump this last funding hurdle we sought a City of Eugene Neighborhood Matching Grant of $4,000 which paid for most of the materials. Our match came from three sources: A donation of the architectural drawings by Chuck Bailey, architect; a donation of time to oversee construction by Forrest Castile of Castile Construction, Inc.; and a commitment from the Lane Community College Construction Technology Program to provide most of the labor to build the structure. Additional expenses were covered by donations from community members. The City of Eugene also required us to fund a maintenance endowment of a few thousand dollars.
The structure was completed in February 2014 and we had a modest grand opening party at the park in mid-July. This is the only small dog off-leash area in Eugene and it has been wildly successful bringing people and their little ones to the park from as far away as Cottage Grove. Applying for and obtaining the Neighborhood Matching Grant was a simple and efficient process and was essential to the ultimate success of the shelter construction.