PEABODY — The opening of the city’s first dog park couldn’t come at a better time for Kara VanSlyke and her pooch, Luna.
“I’ve lived in Peabody my whole life, but this is my first dog and she’s changed my life completely,” she said. “To have a place for her to come, hang out and meet other dogs is absolutely awesome.”
The Peabody elementary school special education teacher and her 8-year-old purebred husky joined dozens of dogs and their owners as the gates opened for the first time at the Peabody Dog Park on Perkins Street.
Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. credited the Friends of the Peabody Dog Park, and Jennifer Davis, the city’s director of the Recreation, Parks, & Forestry, for making the 2,500-square-foot park a reality.
“As I was coming over, I wondered if we would have more dogs or politicians at this ribbon cutting,” he said as a few dogs barked behind him. “I’m very glad to say we have more dogs.”
The mayor said the effort by volunteers and City Hall to create the park is a welcome addition to Peabody given neighboring communities have dog parks.
“It bothered many of us that we didn’t have our own dog park,” Bettencourt said. “It’s great to say we have one now, it’s beautiful, and I put it up against anybody’s.”
The $250,000 park, complete with an unconnected red-and-yellow fire hydrant, was funded mostly by the Stanton Foundation, a nonprofit established by Frank Stanton, the former president of CBS. One of its missions is to advance canine welfare.
The Cambridge organization paid for the design at a cost of $24,000 and contributed $202,000 toward construction. Friends of the Peabody Dog Park raised $13,000, and the city’s Community Preservation Committee provided $11,000.
Tammy Ross, president of Friends of Peabody Dog Park, said she started a Facebook group five years ago to attract a group of animal lovers interested in bringing a dog park to town.
“I was lucky enough to get five others and we convinced the city it was a good idea,” she said. “It took a while to find the perfect spot in a central location, but now we’re seeing all those efforts come to fruition.”
Davis said dog lovers wanted a place where the animals could run free, because the city has an ordinance banning dogs in parks.
“We agreed,” she said as Gimli, her 3½-year-old Finnish lapphund, barked.
Construction began last spring next to the Tanner City Skate Park, across the street from Coach Bob Driscoll’s Skating Rink.
The park is for dogs of all sizes with a special space for smaller ones. There are benches for owners and a shelter for dogs on those hot summer days.
“Dogs and their people, as I call owners, now have a great place to enjoy,” Bettencourt said.