“Texarkana doesn’t have a dog park, so this is a big deal,” said Eric Ethridge, media manager for Texarkana, Ark. “We have a lot of dog lovers who are really passionate about it.”
Pet professionals, pet owners, shelters, animal welfare groups and civic officials in both states joined forces to secure the park, which will be constructed on the Arkansas side of the border, according to Wayne Smith, mayor of Texarkana, Ark.
“What began with a handful of passionate citizens has grown into a community project of love for our animals and has united both sides of our town,” Smith said.
The idea of entering the contest was brought to the attention of Texarkana officials by neighbors Chrystal Sloan and Deanna O’Malley. With officials from both sides squarely behind the project, the Arkansas women requested that votes not be split between the cities but instead combined.
Next, the women began spreading the word with help from the local newspaper and TV and radio stations.
“When our city started to gain momentum and became a front runner, then a bunch of people from Texas started to vote for us, too,” Ethridge said. “We share everything around here. We have one chamber of commerce that markets our cities as Texarkana, USA.”
The $100,000 will cover the entire cost of the project, which will use a portion of Jefferson Park for the new PetSafe Jef-FUR-son Dog Park. The dog park is scheduled to open in spring 2013.
Texarkana beat out more than 1,000 other nominated U.S. cities, with a total of 167,373 votes out of 659,550 cast. Oak Forest, Ill., finished second with 123,417 votes and received $25,000 for its dog park effort, and Derby, Vt., won $25,000 and the “Bark From Your Heart” award for having the highest votes-to-population ratio.
“Hundreds of dogs will enjoy having dog parks in Texarkana, Oak Forest and Derby,” said Randy Boyd, president and CEO of Radio Systems Corp., the parent company of PetSafe, a provider of pet behavior, containment and lifestyle products and services. “We’ve heard from several cities that the contest not only built awareness for a local dog park but unified neighbors across the community.”