Kingsport canines, owners help dedicate Dogwood Park

Matthew Lane • Dec 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — More than a dozen dogs brought their owners to the dedication and grand opening of Kingsport’s new dog park Tuesday afternoon. Some dogs sat patiently, while others were champing at the bit to enter the new dog park and run with their fellow canine friends.

Kingsport’s Dogwood Park — located behind left field at Hunter Wright Stadium — is now open for business. Dogs can now run and play off leash with other dogs in a three-acre, fenced-in, wooded environment.

“(Dog parks) are an amazing thing and great for Kingsport, not only for the dogs, but for everyone,” said Russ Hickman, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee. “When we have very committed citizens who put in lot of their own time, expertise and enthusiasm to a project like this, it’s usually very successful.”

The park has a 6-foot-high, vinyl-coated chain-link fence all around a wooded site with all natural features. It is divided into two sections — a 2.5-acre section for larger dogs and a half-acre section for older and smaller dogs. Owners will use a key card to gain entry into the park, and all dogs must wear a special tag obtained from the city while in the park.

“Everyone who has been involved in this project has done a great job, and the city of Kingsport owes you a debt of gratitude for all you have done,” said Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote, who also brought his dog to the event.

People who want to bring their dogs to the new dog park must first register their dog at the Civic Auditorium. Dog owners must bring a copy of vaccination records for each dog, sign a release of liability, and pay the registration fee — $20 a year for the first dog and $10 for each additional dog. Non-city residents pay $25 and $15, respectively.

The city is offering a special discount on registration fees through Jan. 30 — $10 off for the first dog and $5 off for each additional one. By Tuesday afternoon, about 30 people had registered their dogs for the new park.

The dog park committee is in the process of forming a nonprofit dog park association, and a Web site for the park has been established — www.kingsportdogpark.com.

The cost of the dog park came in at budget of $40,000 — the expenses being fencing (a majority of the cost), the key card entry system, and asphalt for the gate pad, walkway and the two handicapped parking spaces.

Kingsport already owned the land, Eastman Chemical Co. did the excavation and grading work at the site, and volunteers and Sullivan County inmates helped clear brush and trash from the site. In addition, the Creative Trust Agency of Kingsport volunteered to design and host the dog park’s Web site.

The move to create a dog park began in April 2007 through an e-mail campaign to numerous people in the community, many from Eastman and Charter Communications, all asking for support for the project. The e-mail featured a pleading basset hound named “Porkchop” and asked people to contact the Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the issue, specifically Alderman Pat Shull.

After dozens of e-mails were sent to city leaders, the matter came before the BMA, which green-lighted the project, earmarking $40,000 toward it as a last-minute addition to the city’s capital improvement plan for 2008.

A citizens committee was formed and worked for more than a year on researching and developing the dog park, choosing a site from more than 20 visited; drafting rules, policies and a fee schedule for the park; and coming up with a logo and name.

Natalie Whitlock, the owner of Porkchop, helped get the ball rolling on the project, and she and her husband Hank served on the dog park committee.

“I’m so excited. It’s a dream come true for dog lovers all over the Tri-Cities,” she said. “A lot of times things don’t move as fast as you like, but we got the ball rolling, picked the location and here we are.

“The city was just tremendous. They wanted this, got behind it, and now we’ve got a dog park.”

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