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Dog park celebrates first anniversary

Dozens of people and dogs visited the New Richmond Area Off Leash Dog Park on Sunday, July 20, to celebrate the park’s one-year anniversary. (Photo by Micheal Foley) 1 / 2
John Swingle of Countryside Veterinary Clinic slides a beam into place while building a shelter at the New Richmond Area Off Leash Dog Park last week with his son Todd Swingle. (Photo by Micheal Foley)2 / 2

Dozens of New Richmond residents and their four-legged companions turned out for the one-year anniversary party of the New Richmond Area Off Leash Dog Park on Sunday, July 20, and there was a lot to celebrate.

A year ago, the park was little more than a fenced-in area atop a capped city landfill at 2202 185th Ave. It didn’t even have a proper gate at the time of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Now, city staff are touting it as one of the city’s most-used parks. Well over 100 people have signed up and paid $15 for yearlong park membership, according to estimates by Jody Klescewski, co-chair of the Friends of the Dog Park.

The city’s Public Works staff, along with donations and guidance from Friends of the Dog Park volunteers have seen several improvements to the 11.3-acre site.

“The community has been so amazing,” Klescewski said. “Everyone has donated so much time, money and effort.”

Multiple benches have been placed on the property, a portion of the park has been segmented for small dogs and a fenced-in gateway area is available for unleashing and re-leashing pets. Plastic bags are available at multiple locations in the park so owners can clean up after their dogs.

“There was a need for dog refuse bags, so somebody made a bunch and put them up,” Klescewski said. “There was a need for a small dog area, so we raised the money in less than a month. Things like that blow me away when the whole community gets involved. It kind of chokes me up, actually.”

The park is also the site for training classes on Thursday nights. Sessions by Pawsitive Dog LLC, which include tunnels, jumps, weave poles and basic commands, are available for $50. Small dog sessions run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and medium-sized and large dog sessions run from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

By far the most visible improvement is a newly built shelter, which was made possible by materials donated by Countryside Veterinary Clinic and labor donated by Countryside owner John Swingle and his son Todd Swingle. Public Works personnel prepared a level site for the shelter, and the Swingles went to work building the structure on Tuesday, July 15. By Sunday night, the shelter was completed aside from a bit of trim work.

“Dr. Swingle and Countryside wanted to be a part of this, and they said, ‘How about if we give you a shelter?’” Klescewski said.

Among those enjoying the shelter on Sunday was Shirley Bestler, who has become a regular user of the dog park to help socialize her dog. She said the park has also given her own social life a bit of a boost.

“It’s a whole new world,” Bestler said. “We needed a bit of people time, and it’s a new avenue for us. There are people of all different ages to mingle with, and it’s just been nice to kind of feel responsible for a place and keeping it nice.”

Friends board member Terri Montpetit played a big role in keeping the park nice this spring by leading the effort by New Richmond High School students during their Service Learning Day. The students helped spread mulch, clear weeds and clean up branches, according to Montpetit.

According to the City of New Richmond Park Plan, future projects at the dog park could include a parking lot expansion, fencing for the north side of the park and an extension of water service.

Those interested in signing up for a $15 park membership can read the rules and regulations and download a membership form at or

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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