By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
ENOCH–When Lynne Brown, Diane Gil and Kim Ritz get together, their conversation often turns to the new animal shelter and the future dog park that will become a reality for residents and Enoch City.
Brown, Gil and Ritz have been part of the Friends of Festival Country K-9 dog park initiative and the non-profit concept since day one. They also share a love and passion for ensuring that local animal shelters are fully supported in their care for homeless animals.
These friends are three among dozens of residents, and local officials who come together with one mission in mind: to realize plans for an off-leash dog park that will feature a 3-acre space for both large and small dogs to exercise, and for families, friends and the disabled community to enjoy time with their canines.
“Basically, our goal has always been to build community support and funds for a fun, and safe, off-leash park,” said Gil of the effort and dream that began in 2011. “As an organization, we will finally realize that goal… this summer, along with our ongoing support for the shelters and homeless animals of Iron County.”
Gil, who relocated to Cedar City from the west coast in 2007, has always been a part of animal rescue and fostering work. Today, she and her husband Bruce provide a pet sitting care service in town. Brown, a New Englander, now retired from Southern Utah University, has called Cedar home since 1984. But both are dedicated to the care of animals and the work of shelters.
“The idea for a dog park came about through a blog,” said Gil. “There was an SUU student (Sarah Scott) who started work on this as an EDGE project, which led to informal meetings, and a group of dedicated people.” According to Brown, a webpage and email list was developed, and a campaign began, with door-to-door survey and up to 2,000 signatures–which led them to become a non-profit in 2012.
“I would say this idea began to galvanize the effort,” said Gil of the movement, mission and their research on potential locations. “As a group, we had spent time investigating four sites, researched liability issues and dog park regulations. We met with the police chief, the Park and Recreation Advisory, local veterinarians and others.”
But site options fell short, and proposals were rejected. Gil admits that the hope began to fade.
“I would say that Bruce Hughes, one of the early supporters made a big difference. He encouraged us and inspired us to pursue 501c3 non-profit status,” said Brown. In the subsequent year, the Friends of Festival Country K-9’s would build a membership model and expand their outreach in pet adoption and to pet parents.
“Some of those years were devoted to everything from offering education seminars, classes and activities, for dog owners, to low-cost micro-chip clinics, and spay and neuter options,” said Gil. It was June 6, 2012, when the proposed concept for a dog park was first introduced to the Enoch Council.
“They didn’t have a site at that point, but they were open to those plans and I think they appreciated all the research we had completed in previous years,” said Gil. As it turns out, Enoch City was developing their own plans for a new animal shelter, said Brown of the offer to come, that they couldn’t refuse.
It wasn’t until Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson first contacted them (in 2012) that the dream became a reality. “When the city obtained a large 9-acre site in April 2016, they called us to see if we were still interested in developing the dog park,” said Gil. With overwhelming Enoch City approval in May 2016, it was the community match they had waited for.
Today the Friends of Festival Country K-9’s offers free classes with memberships that provide additional resources. They continue to support local shelters and homeless pets, with free and low-cost clinics for pet-parents; an annual ‘Responsible Dog Ownership Day’ and other events that promote education, animal adoption, and animal welfare efforts.
The 3-acre dog park will provide pet-parents with a fenced, off-leash exercise space for their dogs, with a location for dog training and a secure area for pet owners of all ages and owners with physical disabilities.
“There are road easements into the land that will allow for grading and land development,” said Gil of the site along Minersville Highway and surveys have been completed with boundaries, and water lines connected. “This dog park is as much for the people as it is for their pets…it’s about providing a safe space where people of all ages can socialize, share information and exercise their dog.”
According to Ritz, a well-run dog park promotes responsible dog ownership and improves city enforcement of leash laws. “This park will offer a space for dog training, adoption or other events,” said Ritz, “And for local police K-9-unit training time.”
The dog park will feature multiple entries (areas for large dogs and small dogs), pick up stations, receptacles, trees, seating and a bulletin board. “There will also be rotational areas to allow for maintenance,” said Gil of double-gated entry so dogs won’t get loose. The organization has also set aside close to $18,000 to cover the initial cost of fencing and amenities. The organization offers memberships, classes and special events, low or no cost clinics, in support of local animal shelters, adoptions and rescue efforts. For more information see, www.FestivalCountryK9s.org (photo J. Aerts).
“We so appreciate Enoch City, the City Manager, and others who share the vision,” said Gil of Friends, “It really was a dream come true.”
Caption: (Left to Right) Kim Ritz, treasurer; Diane Gil, president, and Lynne Brown, vice president; all Friends of Festival Country K-9’s, will join Enoch City to develop a 3-acre off-leash, fenced dog park adjacent to their new animal shelter.