Park brings Village together through canine friends

Published August 17, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE — During the past three months, a new community has grown up in Hot Springs Village. It’s not a new section of homes in the world’s largest gated community. It is a plot of fenced land that makes up the DeSoto Dog Park that has united a community of dog lovers.

“People in Hot Springs Village love their dogs,” said Dianne Jester, a member of Friends of the Dog Park. “The park is open dawn to dusk, and it seems there are people and their dogs there whenever I pass by. There are

as many as 15 to 20 dogs at a time some weekdays, and there are even more during the weekend.

The Friends of the Dog Park is a group that grew from the first committee formed in 2007 to explore the possibility of a dog park in the Village. The pooch-loving group has gone though many changes and looked at several sites over the years.

In 2008, the Hot Springs Village Property Owners Association supported the idea of a dog park and in 2010 acquired a 250-acre tract from the developer in which the park would be located.

The committee and others selected a 3-acre site near the Binefar neighborhood on Fenix Drive, but that site was not approved.

At a community meeting about the park, residents near the area expressed their concern about increased traffic, lights, smells and noise that might hurt property values. By mid-2010, the idea for a dog park was dead; but others were ready to pick up the baton and continue advocating for the park.

After another two-year campaign to build a playground for the canine friends of the residents, a site was approved. The park is on DeSoto Park Lane, near the POA Parks and Grounds maintenance facility, adjacent to the lawn-bowling area.

The grand opening on April 26 began when Joe Moreau and Rolland White, co-chairmen of Friends of the Dog Park, cut a leash for the official opening of the park.

Jester has been a member of the committee for several years, although she does not live in

the Village and no longer has a dog.

“I was asked to take part in the committee as a business representative to the community,” Jester said. She is vice president for business development in

Saline and Garland counties for Bank of the Ozarks. “I still visit the park and sit and watch everybody else. You can see the dogs are so happy.”

Under POA regulations, dogs in the Village are required to be on a leash along the trails or in public areas in the community. The park gives dog owners in the Village an opportunity to let their dogs off the leash to run in the fenced-in area.

Jester said the park is especially popular for people and dogs who might not be up to a long walk on the community’s trails.

“I have seen some of the residents drive their dogs to the park and walk them there,” she said. “I have some friends who live close to the park and will take their dogs to the park several times a day.”

During the opening day, several dogs that live in the Village came out to display their skills in agility and obedience, and pet groomers and other pet suppliers set up demonstrations and booths at the event.

The park is open to canines owned by Village residents. People can enter the park by using a POA identification card. Dogs are registered by the Property Owners Association at its office on DeSoto Drive. There is an $11 fee per dog. Dog owners have to produce proof of a current rabies shot for each dog.

Jester said she is a dog lover. She said Jessie, a shepherd-husky mix was her companion for 17 years, during the time her children left home and through some hard times.

“That is a friend you don’t automatically replace,” Jester said.

Friends of the Dog Park is planning a costume parade in October at the park. No firm date has been set, she said.

“Fees to be in the parade will be used for the 2 Million Dogs Foundation to research canine cancer,” Jester said. “A way to cure dog cancer would be a big step toward finding a cure for us all.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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