Marion officials believe they may have found the perfect spot for a dog park.
The town recently acquired the old quarry that lies next to the developing neighborhood near Emory & Henry College’s School of Health Sciences. While one of the quarry holes is being used for disposal of brush and leaves, the town hopes to transform much of the land into a multi-use recreation area. Monday evening, Town Manager Bill Rush told the Marion Town Council that there’s a section of land at the corner of Callahan Drive and Park Boulevard that isn’t workable for anything else, but would be perfect for a dog park.
Officials have been looking at options for such a park since the summer of 2017 when Ken Heath, Marion’s community and economic development director, took on the project.
In early 2018, the town selected an used portion of Riverbend Park as the canine recreation area’s future site, but some citizens expressed concern about the proximity of dogs to walkers and children and objected to barking and the look of necessary fencing.
Still, Heath persevered, describing the dog park “as a passion project for me.”
He took on the project as a private citizen and dog owner and pledged to raise the money needed for fencing, equipment and other amenities needed to transform a site into a dog health and fun zone.
The idea of a dog park was first introduced in late 2014, but didn’t gain traction until Heath took it on. He’d lost his beloved yellow labs, Sophie and Sadie, to chronic kidney disease and “vowed to do something to make sure their legacy of love wouldn’t be forgotten and soon learned there were so many of you who, like us, love their pups.” A few months later, Heath and his wife got a puppy. In a letter to the editor, he wrote, “We quickly realized what others had been saying -- a community park where dogs can run, play and socialize is sorely needed here. A place where trainers can offer classes, groups can offer adoption events. A place for our pups.”
He approached the town with an idea. If the town would donate land and provide maintenance for the dog park, he’d raise the money to develop it.
Monday evening, Heath said about $8,000 is in the bank.
Rush is working with Heath to get bids on fencing. He told the council he believes the town may be able to build the park within that budget. If that’s the case, Rush said Wednesday, the park could open sometime this summer.
The park will feature two areas: one for larger dogs and a separate space for small dogs.
In past discussions, elements of the dog park have included a water supply, shade, exercise and training stations, and receptacles for dog waste disposal. Rules and regulations will be developed and posted.
Monday, Heath also told the council he’d like to see a memorial wall for dogs created.
Individuals interested in making a contribution may visit https://www.gofundme.com/marion-va-dog-park or send a check to Marion Dog Park, c/o Ken Heath, P.O. Box 1005, Marion VA 24354.
A nearby sinkhole on the quarry property will be fenced off. The town plans to build up a lower tier of the land and create what has been dubbed as a central park. While plans are not firm yet, the town is considering working with Virginia Tech to develop a master plan and design.
The property is near to land where developers are working to build multiple forms of housing and commercial businesses to serve the School of Health Sciences’ students and faculty.