New leader, big plans for Pawtucket Dog Park

New leader, big plans for Pawtucket Dog Park

Chris Riley and Kayla Small, of Tiverton, bring Kayla’s dog, Mater, to the Pawtucket Dog Park for some exercise last November. Volunteers are planning significant upgrades to the park this year and beyond. (Breeze File photo by Charles Lawrence)

PAWTUCKET – The Pawtucket Dog Park has turned into exactly what was envisioned when it opened at the former Slater Park Lawn Bowls space in June of 2011, say those who run it.

“People are using it for what it was meant to be,” said Joanne Palazzo, the person who has served as co-chairwoman of the Pawtucket Dog Park Committee since its inception and who was officially installed as chairwoman to replace Sheryl Rennick last week.

On a given day, there are close to 30 dogs on the small dog side and the same number on the large dog side of the facility, said Palazzo. There are dog people who get together regularly here, and have developed friendships over years of shared experiences.

“It’s a big thing, and it’s a good thing,” she said of the park’s place in the Pawtucket community. “It’s up, up and away,” she said.

This year’s Dogapalooza Family Festival event in August is set to be bigger than ever, and the Canine Costume Contest will be making a return at the event.

“It’s such a blast, and it doesn’t cost the people anything,” said Palazzo.

Palazzo said there are significant plans for greater improvements at the facility. Planned new and improved amenities at the park are water fountains with a bottom designed for dogs and top designed for humans, repairs to A-frames by this year’s Spring Fling, new Astroturf footings, more shelters, more toys for dogs, new fencing, and a new style of benches, among others.

“We have no idea what’s going on as far as major renovations go at this point in time,” said former chairwoman Rennick. “The administration is still working on things and has yet to inform us on any changes, if any, to the timeline for improvements.”

In the meantime, she said, volunteers will still be holding their annual Spring Fling community cleanup of the dog park on Saturday, May 30, starting at 8 a.m.

The continuing challenge, said Palazzo, is to obtain the funding needed for all the work.

Palazzo, 60, a lifelong Pawtucket resident, said working within the confines of the public Slater Park, where the dog park must mesh with wider uses, often brings double the issues.

As for Rennick, she has taken a position with the Pawtucket Parks & Recreation Department as programming assistant, and it is a conflict for her to be on the committee in an official capacity.

“However, I’m still on the committee as a volunteer and will be assisting our new chairwoman when necessary,” she said.

“We have a lot coming up this year as far as events go,” said Rennick. (Visit www.pawtucketdogpark.com .)

Approved by the Pawtucket City Council in February of 2011, the Pawtucket Dog Park opened in June of that year. Palazzo noted that the facility is often held up as a success story by officials from other communities seeking to implement similar facilities, and volunteers are often sharing their knowledge about how to run such a place and obtain the resources to keep it in good shape.

It was MacKenzie Rennick, Sheryl’s daughter, who gave an impassioned plea to the council in 2011 to allow the park to move forward on a trial basis for one year.

“It has been said that the Pawtucket Dog Park is one of the best off-leash dog parks in the state of Rhode Island,” stated a recent news release from the committee. “We offer fresh water, lighting in the evening in the fall months, a well-lit parking lot with ample parking, and an abundance of natural beauty all around the park.”

The facility is overseen by the Parks and Recreation Department as well as the Pawtucket Dog Park Committee. The committee is made up of volunteers whose job it is to promote the dog park, run fundraisers and fun programs, and keep the dog park in the best physical condition possible.

The group is looking for new members. Of the four events run each year, Dogapalooza is its main fundraiser and the largest of them.

The committee meets on the first Tuesday of each month in the Pavilion Community Room next to the Pawtucket Dog Park. Members are asked to make a one-year commitment to be on the committee and attend at least nine meetings. They are also asked to attend as many of the four events as possible.

Email pawtdogpark@verizon.net if interested in joining.