Going to the dogs – Local dog owners hoping to see St. Stephen’s first dog park become a reality

Submitted photo Lori Fawkes, Karen Peterson, Erin Harrell, Sheila Brooks, and Kelly Harrell of the St. Stephen Dog Club, along with their furry, four-footed friends, are excited about the idea of starting a dog park in St. Stephen. This would be the first dog park in Charlotte County, and the women feel that is much-needed. Kelly Harrell, along with Peterson and Brooks, are creating a proposal to take to the Town of St. Stephen, and are hoping their idea for the dog park is approved. One location being considered is the Elm Street Nature Park, where they would have space for a dog park with two dog runs.

St. Stephen – A group of dog owners in St. Stephen who are also members of the St. Stephen Dog Club is looking at different locations for a new dog park in town. One of those locations is the Elm Street Nature Park, which has a large space the group feels would be ideal for a dog park. Kelly Harrell, who has been working on this idea since last month with a group of people, said the Elm Street park is “definitely an option” for a possible future site of the St. Stephen Dog Park.

“We know that dog parks are really high in popularity,” said Harrell. “In New Brunswick, we have at least 17 dog parks, and we want St. Stephen to remain competitive as a vibrant and progressive place to live and visit. Right now, there are no other dog parks in Charlotte County. I’ve heard that St. George is going to get a dog park as well, but I haven’t talked to anyone directly about it.”

Harrell said her own dog is “pretty high energy”, and needs to have a safe place where he can run and play, unrestricted by a leash. She added there are not many off-leash areas in St. Stephen, and this is something all dogs need. She often takes her own dog to sports fields that are fenced in, but it’s not an ideal situation.

“I’ve had some close calls where he gets distracted and will run off,” said Harrell. “In one incident, he was almost hit by a car. We really need a dog park in St. Stephen.”

In addition to a dog park being a safe place for dogs to run, Harrell said it is also a great way for people to socialize their dogs with other dogs. It would also be great for tourists who travel with their pets and want to give them some exercise.

While the group is looking at a few possible location options, Harrell said she and her group have been discussing the possibility of the proposed dog park being at the Elm Street Nature Park with Ed Zammit, who looks after the park. He said they are proposing a park that has dog runs for both large and small dogs. Zammit said the group will need to submit a proposal to the Town of St. Stephen, and then it will have to be voted on by council.

“I took them in and showed them what area we have available. I got pricing for fencing and landscaping, such as bulldozing,” said Zammit. “They’re going to get people from service groups to help them fundraise so they can afford fencing and other items. They’re getting all of their points together and they will put a proposal in to the town. I will introduce them and tell them that we’ve discussed where we would put it. They would like to get it done as soon as possible if they can raise the money.”

Harrell said the help her group has received from Zammit has been “tremendous – just wonderful”. She said having a dog park could even help to improve compliance with local leash laws, because people will have a place to take their dogs without needing to keep them leashed. She also said there are many other benefits to having a dog park in the area.

“We think it would be helpful for seniors who want to get out and have a space to exercise their dogs and themselves,” said Harrell. “Also, you get to meet other people. If you’re new to town, it’s an awesome way to connect with other local dog owners.”

If anyone is interested in the idea of a dog park in St. Stephen, Harrell asks they join and like the St. Stephen Dog Club Facebook page. By doing so, they can receive updates to the planning process as well as connect with other local dog owners.

“We are hoping that we will be able to approach Council by late summer or early fall. That’s our hope. We just want to have a complete proposal that is well done before we go there.”