VALPARAISO – Judging from the barking of its canine constituents, the ValPAWraiso Dog Park is a big hit.
“That’s music to our ears,” commented Valpo Parks Superintendent John Seibert at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
The park has been in use since May 2020, but the pandemic prevented any large gathering. Inclement weather postponed an earlier dedication this year.
This dog park covers 5 acres and features separate areas for large and small dogs.
Other features include pavilions in each area, concrete pathways into each area and a plaza complete with paw-print bricks and archway. The entrance features a restroom, drinking fountain for both humans and dogs, and a paw wash.
Siebert explained that planning for the dog park began in 2015, when the area along Campbell Street was being considered for fire department training. Dog parks were becoming very popular nationwide, the park director said, “so it was only natural for us to have our own park.”
The city purchased the former Clifford Stone property, covering 14 acres. A portion of the property houses the parks’ horticulture greenhouse and offices, dedicated in 2019. The dog park sits on open greenspace.
The dog park cost $400,000 and was funded by privately and publicly, Siebert said.
Elle Nelson, of Valparaiso, brought one of her three dogs, a Havanese named Molly, and called the park a blessing.
“I bring the dogs so they can socialize,” she said. “I mention the word ‘park’ and they get excited.”
Sandy Petruszynski, of Valparaiso, and Colt, an adopted terrier mix, were also enjoying the park.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “Colt loves coming here and playing with his sister Remy. There’s a lot of nice people here.”
Brian and Marissa Gentry, of Valparaiso, brought Ash, a silver Labrador.
Brian Gentry said the park is “just a great place to come with a lot of dogs and socialize. Ash gets his exercise and it wears him out, so when we get home, he goes to sleep.”
The park has been taking memberships, Siebert said, and all dogs must have three shots. The park department was hoping for 300 memberships, but that has more than doubled with 800-plus members.
Valparaiso Police K9 Officer Ryan Sobierajski came with Vega, a German-Belgian Shepherd mix.
“This is a great facility,” Sibierajski said, “with lots of good space for bigger dogs.”
The dedication program featured vendors, games and prizes, and giveaways. The park will be open May through September, dawn to dusk.
Planning for the park began during the administration of former Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas. Holding Winnie, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Costas said he hoped the park is a “super blessing for all of you and your families for many years.”