By Katie Mills Giorgio, correspondent
Editor’s note: Each week we target a town off a map of Eastern Iowa and go there in search of a story. We hope to discover and share stories of people and places we might not ordinarily take note of, but who make our communities special.
WEST BRANCH — Dog lovers here have a new spot to enjoy with their furry friends.
Thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers, the West Branch Dog Park opened recently to a great deal of human and canine enthusiasm.
The park covers about an acre and a half of land on the city’s north side. It is located on the site of an old hog-buying station at the intersection of 280th Street and Baker Avenue.
“The area where we ended up putting the dog park was a real eyesore as it had been abandoned for 10 to 15 years,” said Amy Lynch, director of the Friends of West Branch Dog Park, a non-profit organization behind the creation of and ongoing sustainability of the park. “This was a nice way to clean up the north side of West Branch.”
The land was donated to the city of West Branch about a year ago. Since then volunteers have been working to not only prepare the park but also raise the funds to make the park a reality.
Demolition work needed to occur at the site before it could be seeded, Lynch said. That started last spring.
“Then as we waited for the grass to grow we started fundraising,” she said.
Lynch said the effort to raise the necessary funds — some $11,500 to cover construction of fencing, a small shelter, benches and signage — was a group effort. The Friends of the West Branch Dog Park hosted concession stands and had a dog blessing ceremony at a local church. They also received donations from the Lions Club and many local businesses. The Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops pitched in as well, helping to construct the shelters in the park, Lynch said.
The dog park truly became a reality when the fencing went up in July, Lynch said. “We are also lucky to have some good shade trees already on the site,” she added.
Lynch, who also sits on the Animal Control Commission and owns The Grooming Station in West Branch, said the dog park has long been a dream for the community.
“There are lots of dog lovers in town,” she said. “And until now there wasn’t any place you could take your dog to run like this.”
The new dog park is membership based, Lynch explained. Residents wishing to use the park can purchase a yearly membership for $15 and non-residents can purchase one for $20. Forms are available at City Hall.
She said she already has seen people making use of the park.
“The park is great for socialization of your dogs. We sat there this past weekend and at one point there were eight dogs running around. It was great,” she said.