Austintown Township Park has an addition sure to please dog lovers. A dog park was constructed just over a year ago and has been growing ever since.
The dog park was started when Trustee Lisa Oles approached Todd Shaffer, the park's supervisor, with the idea. Oles gave Shaffer magazines and other ideas to work off of, and the project began.
Since construction began, agility equipment has been added to the fenced in dog park as well as a smaller area for dogs 25 pounds or smaller. The small dog park, a quarter of an acre in size, was just finished last week and is ready for dog companions.
The smaller dog park stemmed from little dogs getting out of the larger fence and having trouble with the bigger dogs in the large park. Additions will include agility equipment, benches and tables in the spring.
The project was originally being paid for by the township but is now being funded by Marjorie Hartman's estate. Shaffer was contacted recently by Huntington National Bank when Hartman passed away. The park was informed Hartman had left her estate to go towards animals and wanted more information on the dog park.
Shaffer has been in contact with the Hartman family through the bank and was told they are donating $38,000 to the dog park. Shaffer said because of their generous donation a project that would have taken at least four years will be done in just over a year.
Construction of a pavilion inside the dog park is expected to start next week and will be named in honor of Hartman.
"I feel once it is complete it will be a premiere dog park in the area and anticipate it being packed in the future," Shaffer said. "The park is open from sun up to sun down 365 days a year.
The snowy weather hasn't kept people away. Shaffer said there are regulars who come every day regardless of the weather.
The free dog park already attracts members of other surrounding communities as well as Austintown residents. Someone who is often seen at the park is Melissa Simko of Sit Means Sit. Shaffer said Simko offers advice on dog training to those who show up, and has contact information at the park for more one-on-one training.
As far as training goes there are a few simple rules that must be followed, according to Shaffer: Dogs must have current shots; if signs of aggression are shown, the dog has to be leashed; owners have to have voice control of their dogs to be unleashed; dogs under four months old are not permitted in the park; and last but not least, owners are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs. The park provides plastic bags for dog owners.
The community also can look forward to a bathing station and watering fountain coming this summer.