After the nearly 100 people who gathered to celebrate the opening of the Lewes Unleashed Dog Park had left, Aug. 17, Biscuit, a 4-year-old rescued bearded collie, ran free, with his hair flowing in a light breeze and his mouth wide open as he enjoyed the new open space designed just for him.
With his owner Caryl Williams looking on, Biscuit explored, greeted other canines and even played in some mud. Dogs will be dogs.
In the small dog section of the park, a group of dog owners and families chatted as their shih tzus and terriers played together under shade trees.
It was Day 1, and the dog park was operating exactly the way Lewes Unleashed had long envisioned. The new 4.5-acre park off New Road is a members-only gathering place where dogs can run free, unleashed with unabated energy while like-minded dog owners can socialize.
The park is the result of more than a half decade of work, beginning at a grassroots level with passionate dog owners Jayne and Taylor Abercrombie, Linda and Rick Palmer and Lee and Larry Wiley.
“It is no small testimony to the effort of this community that it happened,” said Mayor Ted Becker. “It wasn't an easy sell initially.”
The dog park was first discussed with city council in 2011. Different iterations of the dog park were brought forward, but the effort to make it happen never wavered. Lewes Unleashed obtained a lease of the land from city council in fall 2014. The dog park design got a stamp of approval in spring 2015.
It wouldn't have happened without an ardent contingent of the community, Becker said.
“Across the nation there is a program called the Extra Mile. I think we have the extra 10,000 miles in this community,” he said. “Whether it's a dog park, the community village or whatever else we've put together in the last 10 to 15 years, this is a phenomenal community we've become.”
Paul Collins, Lewes Unleashed vice president, said the park may be open, but the work will continue. He said Schell Brothers will build a gazebo in the park's events area. He is also working with EnviroTech to put a pond in the middle of the general area.
Also, Lewes Unleashed plans to partner with local groups and organizations to host events at the park.
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, who appropriated $50,000 in community transportation funds for curbs, sidewalks and fencing, said he is eager to see the park in action.
“This park, this place, this space is another unique addition to the richness of the natural resources all of us here in the 6th District get to enjoy,” he said. “Let's make this place one that people enjoy for generations to come.”
To use the dog park, one must become a member of Lewes Unleashed. The annual fee is $60. For more information, go to www.lewesunleashed.org.