With a new five-year lease signed by the city, the Friends of the Choteau Dog Park is launching a fund-raising campaign to raise $35,000 for the set-up and maintenance of the new dog park.
Board President Polly Cunningham last week said $35,000 is an ambitious goal and the organization will work hard to reach it. That is the amount needed to fund the creation and opening of the park with a little cushion to help pay for annual expenses.
The Friends of the Dog Park is incorporated as a nonprofit organization, governed by a board including Cunningham, Vice President Sarah Richardson and members Cheyenne Browning, Susan Hillstrom, Butch VanDeRiet, Lisa Hudnutt and Anne Carlson.
The location for the park is the southern portion of the city-owned land where the former Choteau stockyards sat. This bare, undeveloped parcel runs parallel to the railroad tracks on the east side of the Teton County Sheriff’s Office. It is near the Choteau City Park and the Weatherbeater Arena.
The cost of developing the park will include five-foot or six-foot chain-link fencing, benches and picnic tables with a covering to provide shade and a wind break, and landscaping within the park to include mounds of dirt, logs, posts, boulders and other obstacles that dogs will enjoy playing on and around. The park will also have assorted sticks and tennis balls for dogs to play stations with and will have watering for thirsty dogs.
The park will have two different areas — three quarters of acre for big dogs and a half acre for small dogs, each to be accessed via a double-gated entry pen to deter “escape artists.”
The group will provide both plastic sacks for picking up dog poop and pick-up tools (scoopers) for owners to pick up after their dogs. Plastic-lined trash cans will be in each dog area for disposal of pet droppings. As a cooperative, the group will expect dog owners to clean up after their pets. Those trash cans will then be emptied into a city trash can for disposal.
Rules for use and etiquette placards will be posted at each park entry. Signs will also be put on Main Avenue and at locations such as the Visitors Center, directing travelers and tourists to the park.
Cunningham said the board is sending out letters seeking financial support and will have a table at this weekend’s Choteau Soroptimists Summer Festival where they can take donations. She will be staffing the table with “Tinker,” a dog she shares with Dave Wedum.
“We need to fundraise in the community” to show larger corporate funders that there is a strong community buy-in for creating the park, she said.
The group has worked with Steve Dogiakos to set up a website at choteaudogpark.org where donations can also be made with major credit cards.
The largest single cost for the park will be the fencing, which is expected to cost at least $23,000. The group could lower that cost by using donated fencing and Cunningham asked anyone with extra or unneeded five-foot or six-foot chain link fencing to consider donating it to the dog park.
Other items that will carry a cost and are put on the futures list include a level, graveled walking path inside the perimeter of each pen and the sun shade.
On the west side of the park, there will be a 20-foot-long wooden fence on the inside of the chain-link fencing. This will provide a wind break and there will be a bench for people to sit and watch while their dogs play. The wall will be a “wall of remembrance,” Cunningham said. For a $25 donation, the group will have a piece of wood engraved with the donor’s dog’s name and the plaque will be mounted on the wall.
“It will be marvelous to see all those names,” she said.
She said the group hopes to get the posts set for the fence this year and to get the park fenced next spring. “It’s such a great place,” she said of the property. “The people who camp here [in the City Park] are going to be thrilled,” she said.