Some of Soldotna’s four-legged residents will soon get a park of their very own.
Plans are underway to turn the existing Aspen Park, located on North Aspen Drive behind the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council in Soldotna, into a dog park through the parks and recreation department.
Connie Hocker, a 33-year Soldotna resident, said she has been working for years to get a dog park in the city. When another Soldotna resident, Martha Brewer, died and bequeathed part of her estate to the city to be used to benefit dogs, Hocker said she renewed her efforts for a park.
“This is just something that I’ve always wanted for our community and I saw a need (for) a long time ago,” she said.
Hocker met with the executive of Brewer’s estate and pitched her the dog park idea, she said.
The Soldotna City Council introduced an ordinance at its Aug. 24 meeting to accept the bequeathed amount of $55,000 from Brewer’s estate and use it to create a dog park. The money was originally meant for the animal shelter in Soldotna, but after Mayor Pete Sprague and City Manager Mark Dixson met with the executive of the estate, it was decided the funds should not be used for animal shelter general operations, according to the ordinance. Since there are no capital projects planned for the shelter and the money is intended to help dogs, the dog park project was decided on, according to the ordinance.
“This is a city park that is extremely under-utilized, so we’re taking an existing park and making great again,” Hocker said.
In addition to the $55,000 from Brewer’s estate, Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael said some city funds will be moved around in order to cover the cost of the dog park. It will not create additional expenses, but rather utilize funds already allocated but not being used, he said.
An amount of $39,700 has been appropriated for a gazebo to be built in Parker Park in Soldotna for several years, Carmichael said, but that project was never completed. Carmichael added that when the Parks and Recreation department upgrades playgrounds to have rubber mulch for fall protection, it does so through a 50/50 grant match through Alaska Public Entity Insurance. Because Aspen Park is already slated to receive fall protection, Carmichael said some of those matched funds can be used toward updating the park in general.
“I would love to have (the dog park) done next summer, and I think that’s possible,” he said.
Much of the work to update Aspen Park will be done in-house, Carmichael said. Updating the paved parking and fencing will take a majority of the funding, Carmichael said, as will updated lighting if it’s found to be necessary.
Since the park is near some residential structures, there are some pathways that will need to be reworked and other amenities like dog watering stations to be accounted for, Carmichael said. The amounts needed to fund different aspects of the park like lighting, parking and fencing are estimates at this point, he said.
Hocker said she is excited about the park’s progress.
“People say, ‘Well, it’s Alaska — you don’t need a dog park,’ but we have to socialize these guys,” she said.
In addition to the watering stations, Hocker said the dog park will include a memorial wall, agility equipment, benches for people to relax on and separate sections for small and older dogs. Visitors will be invited to create memorial stones by embedding tags from dogs who have died, Hocker said, and those stones will be used to build the memorial wall. This activity is one of several Hocker said she is planning for the park, which she wants to evolve into a community gathering place.
Hocker said she will create a Facebook page especially for the dog park, she said, where she will announce activities and fundraisers.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.