New group working to start public dog park in Bradford

From left, Josh Howell, 8-year-old Stella Close, Christina Close and 1 ½-year-old Aurora Howell walk their dog Roofus in April at Callahan Park. A local group that has formed — the Bradford Dog Park Association — is working to start a dog park in the Bradford area for dog-walkers such as these to enjoy.

It’s a simple concept: designating a place for residents and their dogs to enjoy nature — as well as each other’s company.

That’s what advocates in the Bradford Dog Park Association hope to see happen. The group has been meeting since January, and since then they have been trying to meet monthly to discuss their progress.

Members hope to find a spot within Bradford City but will consider locations in the surrounding area, too.

The idea developed after a group of residents started visiting when they were out walking their dogs, explained Nicole Ackley, vice president for the association. People started coming out with their dogs, a cup of coffee in hand, to walk together and socialize.

It was “just so nice to have the dogs run and play and have that sense of community,” said Ackley.

Claudette Haner, association president, added, “Dogs bring people together who might otherwise not have crossed each other’s paths.”

The group’s mission is “To establish a safe and well-maintained dog park where well behaved canine citizens and their owners can exercise and socialize without endangering or annoying people, property or wildlife. We view this as a community enrichment project.”

According to the association, there are nearly 6,000 licensed dogs in McKean County but no public dog parks within a 40-minute drive of Bradford.

To reach that end, group members has talked to several people to determine the steps to making a dog park happen, and they plan to approach Bradford City Council before the end of the year with a proposal.

Haner said their footwork thus far has included reaching out to other dog park groups, such as Paw Park in Amherst, N.Y., and a group in Cranberry Township, to find out what works.

“I guess we’re just trying to nail down the secret formula that makes it successful,” she explained.

Brad Mangel, a member of city council, has been working with the group to provide insight into the steps the group needs to take to prepare. They are also working with the city solicitor.

While the Bradford Dog Park Association is working to develop the park and are willing to help with fundraising, upkeep and keeping an “eye on the park,” the group does not plan to take ownership of the space. Instead, they hope to partner with Bradford City in the endeavor.

“We’re more of a supportive group,” Haner noted.

They want it to be considered the same as other public amenities such as Barcroft Pool and the tennis courts at Callahan Park, and the skate park by Hanley Park, Ackley explained.

No location for the park is set.

However, the group is eyeing a spot at Callahan Park, which members feel is underutilized by citizens.

“This is an absolutely beautiful park,” said Haner, but “It’s a ghost town.”

Haner added, “We don’t want to take anything away from anybody,” and explained that, as a spot is relatively empty, no one would lose anything.

“We’re not taking anyone’s ball field,” said Ackley.

With built in shade and a water source, it would take little to prepare it for canine visitors. The designated dog park would likely have the same park hours as other Bradford parks: sunup to sundown.

The group had also considered a spot in Foster Township near one of the Tuna Valley Trail Association trails. They encourage anyone with an idea for a dog park location to contact them.

The group is currently collecting signatures for a petition that they will bring with them when they meet with city council.

To sign the online petition, search for @bradforddogpark on Facebook and click the blue “Sign Up” link, or visit the petition webpage directly at https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/support-creation-of-bradford-area-dog-park.html.

There were 91 signatures as of Sunday night, and the group hopes to get 500 before approaching city council with the idea.

They will be approaching businesses, too, to see if any would let them post paper petitions.

Haner said the association may eventually start a GoFundMe page to raise money for fencing.

She noted they are not a non-profit, but rather just a group of citizens looking to start something they believe would add value to the community.

Haner added the dog park venture could be an opportunity to work with local businesses in developing ways for dog owners to bring their pets out.

She suggested the park could one day host an adopt-a-pet event for the McKean County SPCA, too.

Contact the group at bradforddogpark@gmail.com for more information.

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