Dog days of summer: Hannah's Bark Park opens
Today, the first barks were heard in Hannah's Bark Park as the ribbon was cut, marking the official opening of the long-awaited off-leash dog park.
The idea for the park was inspired by Hannah Simons-Scalise, a Central Michigan University student who passed away in 2011 with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Scalise told her mom, Lynn Simons, to spend what she would have on Scalise's funeral to open a dog park in Mount Pleasant.
Today, Scalise got her dying wish.
"Hannah would love this dog park," Simons said. "It's a nice way for her wishes to have a home."
Her mother described Scalise as a very engaging daughter and a lover of pets, especially her dog Sophie. The two are commemorated on a plaque that will hang in the park once a pavilion is constructed. Simons highlighted the community work that went into funding and constructing the park.
"So many people donated hundreds to this park," she said. "From businesses to school children--even cat lovers."
The 3.6 acre park was funded by a partnership between Union Township and the city of Mount Pleasant, and the non-profit "Friends of the Dog Park." The organization raised $39,188 through community outreach and fundraising. The city and township matched the funds dollar for dollar.
Bryan Mielke, trustee of Union Township, said the park represents Scalise's last wish, but also something more for the township and Mount Pleasant.
"This park is healing the relationship between the city and the township," he said. "Mistrust has existed for more than 20 years. Hannah's dream was the catalyst for a better community."
Vice Mayor Rick Rautanen said Friends of the Dog Park found the location of the park, which was thick with un-walkable brush before construction. The group raised funds, and wrote letters to the City Commission and Union Township Board asking for help.
"It highlights what we can accomplish when we collaborate," he said. "It will serve the community for years."
A plaque with the names of 261 donors will also hang in the park's future pavilion. Director of Parks & Public Spaces Chris Bundy said the space will be finished by the second week of August.
"Friends of the Dog Park raised additional funding to build a roof on the pavillion," he announced at the opening ceremony.
Owners can register their dogs at City Hall, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 18. Dogs must have all of their shots and be registered to enter the park. Key fobs, which cost an annual fee of $30 will be given to owners upon registration. It costs $20 for each additional dog. Visitor or trial memberships will be available for $5 for a seven-day period.
Hannah's Bark Park is also nominated for a Community Excellence Award from the Michigan Municipal League. Nominees in this category are judged on replicability, creativity, originality and community impact. Those who would like to vote can do so on MML's website.
The park is located at Mission Creek Park on Crawford Road in Mount Pleasant.