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Development of dog park location ongoing

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Damascus Dog Park

Richard Smith (right), a Damascus resident who is instrumental in starting a dog park in town, meets with students from Holston High School during a service day.

DAMASCUS, Va. — After months of disputes and delays, a dog park is still in the future for the town of Damascus.

According to Richard Smith, organizer of the project, miscommunication between the town and Washington County resulted in having to move the prospective site for the dog park to a different location in town.

A Damascus Dog Park Development Team, composed of residents eager to see the project come to fruition, had designated earlier this year an acre field at Beaverdam Creek Park to be used for an off-leash facility. However, plans changed after learning that a lease signed by the town and the county specifies the field be used for recreation.

That left the development team to do only one thing, according to Smith. “We had to locate another suitable location.”

After conducting a search, the team has decided on a new location where the dog park will be built on town-owned land accessible by Whistlestop Road near Trestle 17, adjoining Laurel Creek.

“The town owns almost two acres of this property in the floodplain, which is unsuitable for any building other than a recreational site such as a dog park,” he said.

Smith said he is very pleased with the new location, which when completed will offer a creek side trail; a shaded area for owners and their dogs; a separation for small, large and older dogs; and easy accessibility in the center of town where people can walk or drive to the park.

“Generally, it will be a good meeting place for tourists and local people — a good socializing place. More and more people are traveling on vacations with their dogs these days.”

Let the work begin

Work to clear the heavily wooded land got started full blast a few weeks ago.

A small bulldozer operator recently was hired to clear what may be a “century worth of growth” from the location, said Smith. Several people in town have volunteered to rake and level the ground after the debris was removed. More clearing will take place before grass can be seeded.

Many of the trees in the lot have been preserved, offering the park an abundance of shade.

“It’s going to be a beautiful park when it’s done,” said Smith. “We’re a long way from it, but eventually it will be a nice place to bring your dog.”

He explained that the two-acre lot will be divided into three areas, with the left side designated for large and older dogs and the right side used for smaller dogs. A middle trail that is prone to flooding will become a pathway when dry.

Work on the area for the older and large dogs already has started in hopes of being ready to open by May.

Trails will be created around the perimeter of the park, allowing owners to walk their dogs to Laurel Creek for a swim or drink of water.

“The trails around the perimeter will serve as a walking pathway that measures approximately a quarter of a mile,” he said.

Generous donations

Thanks to generous donations from town residents, enough money is currently available to pay for fencing around one side of the park.

Robert and Vicky Van de Vuurst of Damascus donated $7,500 to help complete the dog park, dedicating the area to Jack McCrady, the former mayor of Damascus.

“Damascus would not be where it is now without his hard and selfless work, and we thought that this was an excellent opportunity to recognize his legacy and the many great things that he has done over the years,” wrote Robert Van de Vuurst in an email last week.

The couple also wanted to help Smith get the project over the finish line.

“Richard is a tireless advocate for Damascus, and the things that he has done for this town over the years are truly amazing; we both think a lot of him. He ran into some funding issues that were not of his making, and we wanted to help him get this completed.”

Smith said Damascus resident Terri Adkins should be credited for being instrumental in fundraising efforts for the dog park. Adkins helped to raise as much as $7,000 from general donations.

Once fencing and landscaping are completed on the large and older dog areas, Smith plans to kick off another campaign inviting people to purchase benches and gazebos for the park.

Smith invites interested people to join the Damascus Dog Park Development Team found on Facebook and to consider volunteering during the coming months.

Donations to further the development of the dog park can be sent to Susan Seymore, 19332 Country Drive, Abingdon 24211. A GoFundMe account has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/f/damascus-dog-park.

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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