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VOL. 127 | NO. 109 | Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Overton Park Conservancy Meets Milestone With Dog Park

By Bill Dries

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The Overton Park Conservancy counted 150 dogs of all sizes for the formal opening Saturday, June 2, of the Overton Bark dog park and more humans than that, also of all shapes and sizes.

It is those holding the leashes that the conservancy hopes to hold the attention of through the first summer the park has been under the control of the nonprofit group. Since December, the conservancy has operated the park under a contract with the city of Memphis.

The dog park is important because it is being used by citizens who will be very vocal if the project isn’t up to their standards.

“We’re adamant that we want to have water in all of the parks we are involved in,” said Hollywood Feed owner Shawn McGhee, whose company funded the dog park. “Water, we know from our customers, is a big deal. The dogs get hot out there and you’ve got to make it easy for them. Clean-up stations – so the facility is clean.”

McGhee’s first store featuring natural and holistic pet food was at Summer Avenue and Hollywood Street, hence the company name. There are currently Hollywood Feed stores in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama.

“When this project came along, it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to do it,” McGhee said. “It was a question of how we were going to do it.”

Hollywood Feed is involved in four other dog parks: two in Memphis, one in Birmingham, Ala., and another in Mississippi. Overton Bark is closest to Hollywood Feed headquarters.

“We’re going to be involved in keeping an eye on the maintenance and making sure it stays at a level that all of our customers love,” McGhee said.

“Now that we have the conservancy in place, people feel like there is a coordinated effort.”

–Tina Sullivan
Executive director, Overton Park Conservancy

Conservancy executive director Tina Sullivan said the dog park is an important milestone even for those who don’t have dogs.

“I think now that we have the conservancy in place, people feel like there is a coordinated effort that people can direct their energy into this one organization,” she said. “We’re going to channel that support into some additional projects that are going to come online over the next three months. We’ll start with improving the playground here and at East Parkway, opening the restrooms here and putting in new restrooms at East Parkway.”

The conservancy also has the funding to build an East Parkway entrance for bicyclists and pedestrians where Sam Cooper Parkway ends that will link to bicycle lanes in the Broad Avenue Arts District. The project includes a path from the plaza on East Parkway that will link up with existing trails in the park.

Memphis City Council member Jim Strickland went with a larger frame, pointing to coming changes in Overton Square as well as bicycle lanes and food trucks coming to the area.

“Within two years, this area of Midtown will be dramatically improved,” he said.

Instead of a ribbon cutting Saturday, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., other political leaders and conservancy leaders had a leash cutting. They unhooked two dog leashes after a few obligatory dog puns from Wharton who thanked Strickland for “bird-dogging” the process.

Meanwhile, efforts to create a dog park in Collierville’s W.C. Johnson Park got a boost last week from the Collierville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The board designated land in the northwest corner of the park for a dog park and $100,000 to $135,000 in funding provided the organizer of the effort, Christopher Cornell, follows through with nonprofit status for an organization the city would contract with to oversee the facility.

“The board set it up for me so that I can go ahead with it. … I just have to sit down with them and make a plan and make sure we have the ability to manage it,” Cornell said. “It couldn’t open up fast enough for all of the people here. … I don’t think it will take very long to plan it. I would certainly like to see it by the end of the year.”

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