Dog park opens at Elm Street Nature Reserve

(Robert Fisher photo) The new dog park at Elm Street Nature Reserve opened to the public late last month.

ST. STEPHEN – A new off-leash dog park has opened in St. Stephen for pets of all sizes.

The PetValu Tails and Trails Dog Park officially opened on Aug. 28 at the Elm Street Nature Reserve with a ribbon cutting, music and cupcakes for dogs and their owners.

According to Kev Sumner, director of community services for the Municipal District of St. Stephen, the park with one section serving dogs under six kilograms, the other for larger canines, spans about 238 linear metres, and features benches for the owners and garbage cans to dispose of pet waste.

Sumner said the dog park has been a priority for the community for the past five years.

“It was finding the right location,” he said. “People wanted it relatively close to town, they also wanted it to be accessible, and they wanted to have enough room.”

Noting the COVID-19 pandemic posted challenges, St. Stephen Dog Park committee chairperson Sheila Brooks said they formed the ad-hoc committee of town council and looked for available properties.

“It takes time. We were looking at properties and you contact someone to see if it’s available, you wait for an answer, and everything was slow during COVID,” she noted. “This last year and a half, it went quite quickly once were able to be out and communicate with people face-to-face.”

Brooks said the committee received invaluable help from former town councillor Phil Chisolm.

“We did a lot of research on dog parks in the province, similar-sized municipalities,” she noted. “We did a proposal, we presented it to the town council, and basically they approved it if we were able to raise at least half of the funds needed.”

Sumner said members of the club then solicited donations from organizations, businesses and residents.

“They pounded the pavement and asked around and were able to put themselves in touch with PetValu,” he said. “They fundraised close to $40,000. The park, and the fencing, and the clearing were built using the funds and we’re very pleased with what we’ve got so far.”

After selecting the location for the dog park, Brooks said the committee received a $20,000 grant from PetValu.

Some of the more successful fundraisers were an online auction and a talent show with a 50/50 draw, said Brooks.

“It took us maybe from January to October to secure almost $40,000,” she said. “People were so generous; businesses, individuals, either donating, buying, there was so much community support.”

Brooks said the St. Stephen Milltown Rotary Club made a “sizable donation,” then there was an anonymous private donation of $2,000, and they received donations from Pizza Delight, Kindred Home Care, and Dylan Consulting.

“Fundy Fencing gave us a quote, pre-COVID, for the square footage that we wanted, and three to four years later, they held to that quote, which I’m sure would’ve been a lot more,” she said. “Ron Fournier from Rocky Point Farms, he cleared the property for us. It took a lot of help and generosity.”

Sumner said the dog park would not have been possible without volunteer and community support.

“We wouldn’t have had this without them, so it is really appreciated, and we worked in collaboration with them to promote it,” he noted. “We’re pleased with the finished product for sure.”

Since it opened late last month, Sumner said signs have been erected explaining the rules of the dog park.

“From the feedback we’ve had, there’s people using it from in town and visitors from outside the town,” he said.

Sumner added that, so far, the project has been successful.

“It’s a great location,” he said. “We’re pleased because it just brings more people into the park so it’s getting used and it hopefully takes dogs and the issues that come with dogs, like leaving dog waste, hopefully gives us a place where people can let their dogs can run off. There’s infrastructure there like garbage cans and benches to help people and it can be a sociable area where people can come out walk their dogs, let them run, and people can meet up with their friends, and dogs can get to know each other as well.”

Jake Boudrot

A graduate of St. Francis Xavier University and a resident of Arichat, Jake Boudrot is an award-winning journalist with decades of experience as a freelancer, reporter and editor representing media outlets across the Maritimes.