NEW PALTZ – Ulster County will have its own dog park at the end of September after nearly five years of dog owners rallying.
Danielle Cardella, the former board president of For Paws of Ulster, remembers when the organization was in its infancy. She adopted her first dog, Barley, soon after she and her husband moved to New Paltz.
Cardella was surprised to find there was no local dog park (the closest ones today are in Montgomery and Gardiner), so she started a Facebook group to invite dog owners and their furry pals to her house to discuss options.
“We were known as the four crazy dog ladies,” Cardella said. “We wanted the nonprofit to be a play on words to reflect that.”
The original four were Cardella, Christie DeBoer, Marion DuBois and Tova Weitzman, but the board has since expanded through the years and includes Helen Gutfreund, Dr. Karen Bennett and Jessica Bernstein. Cardella is now passing the torch of board president to Christie DeBoer, and joked that she’s stepping down to take care of her own “human animal,” her daughter, born this summer.
DeBoer said the group connected over their dogs the way most parents connect through their children.
“When I first saw Noodle [Helen Gutfreund’s dog], I ran and crouched down and said, ‘Hi! It’s so good to meet you! I talk to you on Facebook all the time,’” DeBoer said. Gutfreund cleared her throat and reminded DeBoer who was actually in charge of posting on Facebook. The two became friends.
DeBoer, who has three dogs, is a passionate advocate for dog parks – even for people without dogs.
“When someone comes to visit, I tell them: First, we’re going to the dog park,” DeBoer said. “We’re not going climbing, or hiking, or anything else. You need to see these little monsters run and play – it’s stress relief.”
The dog park will be located near the Ulster County New Paltz Recreational Park, off of Libertyville Road.
“We’re so excited it’s finally happening,” Cardella said.
But it was a long journey to get there. In 2010, the first few approaches to the town and county board meetings were a back-and-forth process. Eventually, DeBoer said, the county told them to form a nonprofit if they were really serious about starting a dog park.
For Paws of Ulster was formed officially and the search for land began.
“That was the most difficult part,” DeBoer said. “We met for years in strange places. We wanted someplace that would be right for us.”
DeBoer recalled when a handful of the For Paws of Ulster board drove out to see the granted land for the first time. “It was getting dark, and I saw Marion and Danielle walk maybe 10 feet into the wooded area — and I could barely see them, it was so thick. It was the first time I was doubting if we could do this.”
The group traveled out on weekends to clear the land, but with nearly all the board members working full time, progress was slow. The group decided to use the $10,000 they had raised to have the lumber cleared. DeBoer reached out to a friend at Limber Tree Services for help and the rest of the three-acre plot was cleared.
“From there, the process sped up,” Cardella said. The park will be county-owned and rented from the town – For Paws has secured contracts from both entities. Cardella said they specifically wanted a county dog park because about half of the dog owners are from New Paltz, while the others are from the surrounding area. The LaGrange dog park, for instance, is restricted to town members only.
Gutfreund said that dog parks can help people socialize their dogs. When she adopted her poodle, “Noodle,” Gutfreund would bring the dog to the park five days a week just so he could have a positive socialization experience.
“He was afraid of everything except other dogs,” Gutfreund said.
Other community members have also expressed interest in the upcoming dog park.
Britney Digilio, founder of The Lola Project and owner of two golden retrievers, said the park is a welcome addition to the community. It will be the only place within the borders of New Paltz where dogs can legally be let off-leash. Frequently, owners do so on the Rail Trail, but the new fenced-in haven will allow all dogs to run free safely in their designated area, based on size.
“It’s really important, especially in New Paltz – any kind of area where you have a city or town – dogs need to be able to run,” said Misha Fredericks, owner of Misha’s Ark Pet Sitting.
Gutfreund stressed that For Paws of Ulster is responsible for maintaining the park after it is open and will continue fundraising for that purpose. Ulster County has paid for the fence, estimated to cost $14,000, while the planned water line and plumbing, yard hydrant, signs and bulletin board and Dogipots are estimated to cost $3,900. The group is looking into constructing its own overhangs to save the extra funds for the plumbing and related costs.
The dog park opening announcement is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m., with an opening celebration the following Saturday, Sept. 27 at 10 a.m., which will include agility demonstrations, dog contests and other activities.