By JOSH STIPANOVICH
A $26,500 fence surrounds 3.25 acres just off Southern Boulevard, adjacent to an entrance to Boardman Park.
A sign that reads “Coming soon, Marge Hartman’s Paws Town at Boardman Park” is just north of the land.
Officials are optimistic a grand opening could happen in late August at Paws Town, a dog park in the works since 2009.
Jason Loree, township administrator and co-founder of the dog park, said weather has played a key role in delays.
“Every time we go out, and we try to do some work, it’s rained on us,” Loree said. “This has been the curse of the dog park.”
Water lines — for fountains and a dog wash — have been installed, but Loree said one day of fair weather is needed to install and hook the fountains and dog wash to the existing lines.
The final step would be installing an electronic gate system, but Loree said that phase wouldn’t delay the park’s opening.
In the meantime, if the gate system is not prepared, identification cards would be given to people registered for the dog park.
“It’s all for liability purposes,” Loree said. “Once that happens, the only thing we’re waiting on is the landscaping.”
About 15 community volunteers have been working over the years to make it a reality, and that’s another issue, Loree said.
“They all have full-time jobs,” he said. Of “that group, only so many can do so many things within a certain day.”
Dan Slagle Jr., Boardman Park executive director, said it’s important to realize that this project — like every project that has been completed in the park — is funded through donations and grants.
“We just don’t have the money to go out and build these projects. We have to wait patiently,” Slagle said.
Construction for the site was completed in July 2011, and Austintown Fence installed a black, vinyl coated chain-link fence about a month ago.
Slagle said all 10,000 cubic yards of dirt needed to grade the land was donated. Once the dirt arrived, the park board had to work with contractors and their schedules because they also leveled the dirt at no additional cost, he added.
Loree said he and his wife called the initial 2009 meeting to talk about bringing a dog park to the township. After much enthusiasm, a second meeting was scheduled to determine the needed steps and how to fund them.
Nonprofit status was the best solution, Loree said, and “Friends of Paws Town at Boardman Park, Inc.” was founded in 2010.
About $40,000 was raised by the community and several local businesses through 2011.
As the idea was publicized, interest for the project increased. Donations continued to pour in, including a $60,000 grant from the Marjorie Hartman Family Foundation. The park was named after Marge Hartman, a local animal lover, in September 2011.
The nonprofit organization raised $9,404 in contributions, grants and gifts in 2010 and $97,983 in 2011, according to its 2011 501(c) form that was filed on Nov. 19, 2012, for a total of $107,387. That money was raised for the construction of the site and was 100 percent donated, Loree said, and is controlled by the park’s board and not the township.
“The township has given no dollars,” Loree said. “They’re not involved at all.”
Paula Geidner, project treasurer, said it is on target financially. The current total construction cost is about $78,000.
“We estimate that our remaining funds, $24,625, will be sufficient to pay for the water lines to the fountains, electrical and landscaping,” Geidner said in an email.
Once the project is finished, a $100 annual membership for nonresidents and $50 for residents will be charged, Loree said. They will each receive a swipe card to operate the gate. That money will go back to Boardman Park to maintain the dog park, he added.
“I want to make sure this gets done right,” Loree said. “People are probably wondering, ‘where’s this dog park at, why isn’t it opened yet?,’ but it’s all based on time, availability and weather.”