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Bark in the park

Buddy (left) and Lily (right) take the first official run at New Richmond’s newly opened dog park.1 / 2
New Richmond’s Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Kerlin (left) and Friends of the Dog Park Co-Chairperson Erica Kufus (right) cut the ribbon to signify the official opening of the New Richmond Dog Park during a ceremony July 16.2 / 2

Tails were wagging the evening of July 16.

Pet lovers, dogs and interested community members gathered at the newly developed New Richmond Dog Park to take part in an official ribbon cutting ceremony that night.

Three dogs took the inaugural run through the nicely-mowed and fenced field. Pet owners took a leisurely tour of the park in the 90-degree heat. The consensus was that the city park was a keeper.

Joe Kerlin, outgoing parks and recreation director for the City of New Richmond, kicked off the ribbon cutting ceremony by noting this was the final meeting of his local career. Kerlin heads to Sheboygan to begin his new job there this week.

Kerlin noted that it was local resident Erica Kufus who brought up the idea of a dog park about six years ago.

Everyone admitted it was a great idea, Kerlin told those in attendance, but an appropriate site was hard to identify.

"As with anything, it was a question of trying to find space," he said.

When the idea of using a capped city landfill for the dog park location, Kerlin said everything started to fall into place.

A "Friends of the Dog Park" group was formed with the help of co-chairpersons Kufus and Jody Klescewski. The group took just three months to raise the necessary matching funds to develop the dog park.

"That group did a tremendous job getting the dog park to this point," Kerlin said.

With a mix of donated money and city funding, the dog park now has a gravel parking area, fencing around the perimeter and a mowed field for running. Much of the fence was installed by volunteers Jim Heebink and Irv Sather, along with the work crew from Faith Community Church during their recent FaithWorks week.

Kerlin said there is even a few shaded areas where pet owners can get out of the sun while their dogs run.

A gate on the fence will soon be installed as well, Kerlin noted, so that pets can be contained within the park's boundaries.

When the ribbon was cut last week, Kerlin declared the dog park "officially open," to the applause of those in attendance. The off-leash dog park is the only one of its kind in St. Croix County, according to Heebink.

"I'm so happy the community came together to make this happen," Kufus said.

Klescewski said donors and those offering moral support have played a big role in making the park possible.

"My dog just loves it here," Klescewski noted.

The Friends of the Dog Park organization continues to welcome new members. There are currently 10 members who attend the monthly meeting of the group, with about five other members who are active but don't regularly attend meetings. The group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the New Richmond Civic Center.

The Friends group is planning a grand opening celebration for the New Richmond Dog Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Kufus and Klescewski said the Friends also hope to plan other events for pets and pet lovers in the future. There is also discussion about forming an informal weekly walking club at the dog park.

The dog park is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Dog owners are asked to purchase a $15 annual pass for their pets prior to using the facility. Day passes are also available at the city offices downtown.

Users of the park are asked to clean up after their pets. A limit of three dogs per handler is allowed.

"And if you don't have a dog, you can still use the park," Kufus said. "It's still a city park. If you want to go for a walk out here, you're welcome."

The park is located at 2202 - 185th Avenue (just west of the St. Croix County Health Center at the 90-degree turn in the road.)

Jeff Holmquist
Jeff Holmquist has been managing editor of the New Richmond News since 2004. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and business administration from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has previously worked as editor in Wadena, Minn.; Detroit Lakes, Minn.; Hutchinson, Minn.; and Bloomington, Minn. He also was previously owner of the Osceola Sun, Stillwater Courier and Scandia Messenger along with his wife. Together they previously founded and published The Old Times newspaper for antiques and collectibles collectors; and Up!, a Christian magazine of hope and encouragement.
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