In 1993, the property at 160 Old Mill Road, known as the Haller Homestead, was willed to the Borough of Ephrata with the stipulation that it be used for recreational and educational purposes. Now, the land is being transformed into a community dog park full of fun and useful features for dogs and owners alike.
Ephrata Unleashed Dog Park is a 40,000-square-foot park divided into three sections for toy dog breeds, small dog breeds up to 30 pounds, and large dog breeds 30 pounds and over, with each section enclosed in a 5-foot-high industrial fence. The grand opening will likely take place this March, and once the park is operational, it will be open to the public from dawn till dusk.
The park will have drinking water troughs for the dogs and water fountains for the humans, waste stations for cleaning up after the pets, play equipment like ramps for the dogs, and benches throughout the park with stickers explaining how to access the public Wi-Fi. To provide shady areas that will give relief from the summer heat, fast-growing shade trees that do not produce a lot of debris were chosen by Chandra Mast of the Ephrata Borough Shade Tree Commission. The commission has applied to the state for a grant that would pay for the trees, and the borough will find out by the end of the month whether the grant has been approved. If so, the commission will oversee planting the trees by April.
Ephrata Unleashed Dog Park was funded in part through a grant won last year through the annual Bark for Your Park contest held by PetSafe, a company that makes products for pet care, training and play. The contest helps communities throughout the U.S. build new off-leash dog parks or enhance existing ones. Ephrata was one of 30 finalists that made it to the community voting round, and thanks to the number of community members who voted for Ephrata Unleashed, it finished in the top four in the new park category and received $25,000 toward building costs.
The Borough of Ephrata also spent over $220,000 to build the dog park. Funds to cover the rest of the building costs, as well as initial funds for the maintenance of the grounds and amenities, were raised through the work of Brenda Perrotti of the Dog Park Committee. Mainspring of Ephrata, a nonprofit 501c3 fiscal sponsor and community development organization, sought sponsors and donors in the early stages of the project. Perrotti held fundraising events such as a Halloween party with games, treats and a parade with dogs dressed up in costumes and a K-9 Eggstravaganza, an on-leash egg hunt for social dogs that included other activities like a raffle, a “barkless” auction, and photos with the Easter bunny. Lisa Willwerth, Mainspring’s event coordinator, said there were 125 dogs at the K-9 Eggstravaganza. These events cost $5 per dog, and the events will be held annually to continue to provide funding for the park’s ongoing maintenance.
Stradling Funeral Homes has sponsored a memorial wall at the dog park, so people can also contribute to the park’s upkeep by purchasing small, high-quality metal remembrance plaques to place on the wall. Each plaque will be engraved with the honored dog’s name and the head of its breed, and plaques can be acquired by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
While there is a lot of excitement for and anticipation of Ephrata Unleashed Dog Park, some dog owners have concerns about aggressive dogs and inconsiderate owners. In an attempt to prevent these problems as well as others, 17 rules have been established that all dog park users must abide by, and a sign with the rules will be posted at the park. Rules include “Dog waste must be cleaned up by dog owners and placed in proper receptacles,” “Aggressive dogs are prohibited from this park and dogs exhibiting aggressive behavior or excessive barking must be removed from the park immediately,” and “Dog owners are solely liable for injuries or damage caused by their dogs.” A well-trained dog is a polite dog, so canine behavior and safety classes will be held at the dog park in the future. For now, the dog park’s website offers a YouTube video on dog park safety and etiquette from Lori Anne, a local canine behavior coach who teaches dog owners how to communicate with and understand their dogs.
To see the complete list of the dog park’s rules, visit ephrataunleasheddogpark.weebly.com. For photos and progress updates, check out Ephrata Unleashed on Facebook and Instagram.