New Middlebury dog park nears funding goal

MIDDLEBURY — Organizers of a new Middlebury dog park are in the stretch drive to raise the final $3,000 it will take to pay for the fencing that will encircle the roughly two-acre property adjacent to the Porter Medical Center campus. Boosters would like to see construction begin on the park before the snow flies, though they will not begin work until they have the entire $15,000 fence budget in hand.

Members of the Middlebury Dog Park Committee are contacting local individuals and businesses to help raise the rest of the money for the fence, which is by far the biggest expense of the project. As of last week, organizers had raised $11,857 toward that goal. And committee Chairman Drew Campbell explained that the fundraising can’t stop at $15,000, as there will be recurring operational expenses for the new amenity.

“We want the dog park to be sustainable moving forward,” Campbell said.

Ongoing expenses will include regular mowing of the area, located near the Middlebury Regional EMS headquarters and Charter House community garden, off Collins Drive. The park will include several “poop stations” from which users will pluck baggies to collect and properly dispose of their dogs’ waste. In an effort to minimize those costs, organizers have secured a generous commitment from Casella Waste Management to dispose of the dog park waste for free. And Campbell added committee members are trying to acquire a mower to do that chore themselves, for free. Several companies have submitted bids to mow the park, with the highest estimate coming in at $1,875 per year, according to Campbell.

Future donations and in-kind contributions will help adorn the park with benches, trees and other features to make the space more comfortable and attractive to human and canine users alike.

Campbell reported around 20 area businesses have already made in-kind donations to the park. A fund-raiser at Two Brothers Tavern and a book sale at the Hannaford Supermarket have also provided a recent revenue surge. But not enough yet to officially put the dog park on the map.

“The committee wants to begin building the park soon, possibly even installing the fence before winter, because we’re not only eager to open, we also know more people will be inspired to donate as they see the park being built,” Campbell said.

Committee members have developed a series of sponsoring opportunities that they have comically dubbed, “Throw us a bone!” The sponsorship levels include “chief sponsor” for $15,000, “big dog sponsor” for $10,000, “small dog sponsor” for $5,000, “fence section sponsor” for $500, and of course a regular sponsor for any lesser amount. The larger gift categories carry the reward of a sign or plaque bearing the name of the contributor, or that of a loved one or beloved pet of their choice.

It was last year that a group of dog owners banded together to search for a specific spot for a park. They ultimately contacted the town, Porter Medical Center and Middlebury College — which owns the land. Ensuing talks produced a five-year lease ($1 annually) with the college, permission from Porter to use nearby parking, and satisfaction of all local and statewide permitting requirements.

Late last week the college donated brush-hogging and cleared the site slated to be the dog park. Campbell said the group would set up temporary posts to mark the perimeter for the fence.

Once open, the park will be governed by some basic rules. It will not cater to dogs that are aggressive or that have yet to be spayed/neutered. Animals will also need to be licensed and have their vaccinations up to date. All of the rules will be posted at the gate of the dog park, which will be open during daylight hours, seven days per week.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the park can do so by making their check payable to the “Town of Middlebury,” while writing the words “Middlebury Dog Park” on the memo line. The check can be dropped off at the town offices at 77 Main St., or mailed to Town of Middlebury, 77 Main St., Middlebury, VT 05753.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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