A Kutztown group is turning an abandoned rink into a safe place for dogs to play.

The Ktown K9 Crew are renovating the Kutztown Park's abandoned ice skating rink and turning it into a dog park.

'The current rules of the Kutztown Park do not allow for dogs to run unleashed inside any fenced-in areas... including baseball fields, water retention areas, and this abandoned ice skating rink,' said Jennifer Hess, co-chair, Ktown K9 Crew.

'Some dog owners were allowing their dogs to run around the Babe Ruth Field, which caused issues for the baseball teams because (inevitably) there are some dog owners who did not clean up behind their dog,' said Hess. 'A local resident, Mark Garrett, took the initiative to write the Kutztown Borough and request they hear 'us' out on the matter. So Mr. Garrett, myself, and a few other residents went to the Borough meeting to be heard. The Board liked the idea that we would provide active participation and 'ownership' of the dog park by reaching out to the community for help (donations, volunteers, etc).'

During the Kutztown Borough Public Works meeting on Aug. 7, the Borough gave temporary approval to them to pursue plans and seek fundraising for renovating this fenced-in area behind the Babe Ruth Field at the Kutztown Park.

The Ktown K9 Crew are looking for any monetary donations and corporate sponsors to help fund the fence repair, install a double-gate entrance/exit system, add fill to the ground, and replace the existing spigot so that dogs have access to a doggie water fountain. The Ktown K9 Crew would also like volunteers to help maintain the area by providing grocery bags for picking up dog waste, possibly planting trees in the future and 'other ways to turn this area into a safe, fun and positive play area for local dogs and their owners.'

'A dog park is a place for dogs to be able to run, play and interact off-leash with other dogs,' said Hess. 'Many communities have added them to their community due to the growing trend of dog owners wanting a place to take their dog. Some dog owners do not have a large fenced-in yard to allow their dog to run and play off-leash, so this is a great way for owners to allow their dog the freedom to run safely off-leash.'

Hess explained that dog parks can be a very safe and fun environment for dogs, allowing them to get physical exercise and social experiences, which also provide benefits to dog owners.

'The saying is 'a tired dog, is a happy dog!' It is true that when a dog receives the physical and social stimulation it needs, it is less likely to have behavioral issues at home,' said Hess. 'Dogs need exercise, and when they are not receiving the proper exercise, they sometimes find other ways to deal with the boredom.'

She said this typically leads to chewing on things, having accidents, excessive barking, and other unwanted behaviors inside the house.

'Unfortunately, a lot of dogs end up at a shelter simply because they are not getting enough stimulation through exercise and social interactions! So a dog park is one way to provide a dog with the opportunity to exercise off-leash,' said Hess.

They are hoping this dog park will draw more people, including dog owners, to Kutztown and to 'our beautiful park.'

'It might also draw more people to see all of the great amenities, restaurants and various attractions hosted in our community throughout the year,' said Hess.

A participant and sponsor of the Tail-Waggers Dog Walk fundraiser of dog owners and their dogs walking from the Kutztown Park and along the Sacony Trail raising money for local animal shelters, she knows first-hand how much support and interest the Kutztown community would have for a dog park, said Hess.

The dog park project has received some positive responses on The Kutztown Area Patriot Facebook page.

'I would love to take my dogs there. They love taking walks through the park already,' Jodi Merkel wrote.

'So excited for this!' Amy Hubler wrote.

'Great idea,' Barbara Welter-Hottenstein wrote, 'Looking forward to taking my dog there.'

Penelope Heffner Oulds wrote,'Awesome idea, please keep us updated.'

'We used to take our dogs there a few years ago with our friends,' Melissa Keller wrote. 'There and the baseball field right next to it. Great fenced in area to take them to play. I think it is a great idea provided the dog owners are responsible and clean up after their dogs.'

Hess emphasized the importance that dog owners must be responsible for their dog or dogs.

'This includes cleaning up after their dog(s), and monitoring their dog(s) while inside the dog park,' she said. 'Not all dogs are good candidates for a dog park, and not all dogs want to play at a dog park!'

'Pay attention to your dog and if he/she seems uncomfortable, unhappy or is NOT responding well; then they should be removed immediately,' said Hess. 'Aggressive dogs, dogs in heat, and dogs who are protective over objects (such as tennis balls) or protective over their owner... are not allowed at most dog parks.'

Although no rules have been established at this stage of the process, Hess said it is also typical that young children are not recommended inside dog parks for safety reasons.

'Dogs must be supervised at all times, and dogs who are not playing nicely should be removed immediately by their owner,' she said. 'It is important that a dog park is a safe, fun and friendly environment for dogs and their owners!'

The Ktown K9 Crew would like to encourage anyone looking to help with fundraising, donations, volunteering to contact them at ktownk9park@hometownu.com. Also find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/KtownK9Park.

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