Large crowd shows up for grand opening of new dog park

Kelly J. Kaczala

       They showed up in droves, with their pets in tow, to support Oregon’s new dog park on Tuesday, May 23.
        Big, medium and small, they included Golden retrievers, beagles, German shepherds, Chihuahuas, Labrador retrievers, border collies, rat terriers, and an assortment of mixed breeds. Many barked in approval as they mingled with the large crowd under a sunny sky to be part of a ribbon (leash) cutting ceremony for Jake & Cooper’s Bark Park, which sits on 2.3 acres of gated land on Pickle Road near the Eastern Community YMCA.
        For years, the city had discussed the possibility of a dog park for its residents, according to Mayor Mike Seferian, who was at the event.
        “We’ve had people come to the city and talk about getting a dog park,” said Seferian. “But we had so many things going on. Nobody offered to take the lead on that.”
        Then Larry and Jane Schaffer stepped forward after their son, Jacob, tragically lost his life in 2021 from addiction and mental health issues. They had $10,000 from contributions made in his memory after he died. They were looking for a project to honor him and his love for his dog, Cooper. 
        “He told me he wanted to start a dog park in memory of Jacob and his dog,” said Seferian, adding that he’s known Larry for 40 years. “He wanted to do the leg work and get the dog park going. He brought in other people to help to get it rolling. It was done in record time. He was able to put all that emotional energy into a positive thing.”
        Larry, who occasionally struggled with his emotions throughout the event, as May 23 was Jacob’s birthday, was pleased with the outcome.
        “It’s unbelievable. The community and city have all wrapped their arms around us and this project since day one. It’s a little overwhelming, though. It makes it a real emotional day,” said Larry.
        The park will not be opened until mid-June, he said. “We need to get grass so everyone’s dog doesn’t go home muddy, though there is a dog wash station between the large and small dog section.”
        Benches that will be put inside the park will arrive in mid-June. And three porch swings will be mounted into a concrete pad, he said.
        “The vision is a reality today because of all of you,” Larry told the crowd.
Big effort
        City Administrator Joel Mazur told the crowd that construction of the dog park took some effort.
        “A lot went into this – putting together a contract, the design, installing the decorative hydrants, the fence work – everything that went into this,” he said.
        He gave special praise to Rodney Shultz, who works in Oregon’s engineering department.
        “He is the lead engineer on this. He has put a lot of thought behind it. Obviously, we’re seeing the results right now,” said Mazur.
        He also thanked city council and Seferian “for embracing this vision and getting behind it with funding. Real dollars are going into this from generous donors and city funds.”
        “The size of this crowd is proof that there are strong partnerships, collaborations, relationships, and great vision in this community. Thank you all for being here and supporting this worthy project,” said Mazur.
        He added that a dog park is an amenity that draws the attention of businesses thinking of investing in the city.
        “In the economic development world, there’s a growing emphasis on `place making.’ Putting something like a dog park together, where people and their pets can socialize, make businesses that want to invest in a community think harder about coming here,” said Mazur.
        Some people came to the event to provide support to the Schaffers, while others were interested in bringing their pets to a safe place in which their pets can run around and play.
        Sandy Kessler drove up from Defiance with Scarlet, her two-year-old miniature rat terrier mix.
        “I think this is amazing. This is Scarlet’s first time being with a lot of dogs. She’s done very well. She’s having a ball.”
        Kessler is friends with the Schaffers and wanted to come and support the family.
        “When we come into town, we are going to use the park,” said Kessler. “This is a wonderful way to celebrate the memory of a young man and his dog.”
        Cody Rogers came to the event with his beagles, Maggie and Teddy.
        “It’s really nice. We walked over here, so we will be able to use it a lot,” said Rogers.
        Danielle and Cory Ammerman brought their Dalmations, Ruby and Daisy, to the park.
        “I’ve known Larry and Jane and their kids for 20 years,” said Danielle. “They turned a tragic situation into a positive, not just for themselves, but for their community. We live in Northwood, so it’s not very far for us to come here. We’re excited to have an opportunity to socialize our dogs.”


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