When Stu and Marilyn Baker were thrown out of High Point State Park for the last time (since they let their dogs Jack and Jill run off leash) Marilyn said to Stu “Why don't you start a dog park?" He said, "Why not!" and this is how the Wantage Dog Park was conceived.
The first step, in the fall of 2005, was an appointment with Jim Doherty, the administrator of Wantage Township. He was asked, "Can we have a piece of land for a dog park?" He said he saw nothing wrong with the idea and thought that putting it in Woodbourne Park would be a good idea. He also said that he would have to present the idea to the governing body.
The Board said yes, but the location was shifted to an eight-acre piece adjacent to Woodbourne. We were thrilled at the beauty, size, and location of the piece of land and were thankful that the township had offered it.
The only catch was that the Dog Park would have to raise all the needed funds privately. In this day of close taxpayer scrutiny of Township expenses... this is the only way the park could fly. The next step was forming a committee of officers to start all the work that was needed. Veterinarians Dr. Bob Potter and Dr. Karen Bullock, the author/dog trainer Diane Bauman and Stu Baker met and the process began.
What did we need? Money, engineers, architects, more money, surveyors, excavators, fence construction, county driveway permits, more money, and finally, more money.
The seed funds were provided by very, very generous donations by the Lou Dobbs Family, the Stu Baker Family, Dr. Bob Potter, Diane Bauman, Lori Baker Fazeli and Family and Ben Baker and Family. The total donated by this group was $25,000! We were on our way! The Wantage Dog Park Association was formed as an advisory board for the governing body and Recreation Commission of Wantage Township. A 501(c)(4) application for non-profit status and NJ State incorporation were also on the way.
Our thinking was that the park would be open by late spring or early summer 2006. Were we wrong! The officers were a bit naive in the timing. Every aspect, except getting the land from Wantage, had a series of delays. Even the weather conspired against us during the summer since the proposed parking lot area has a clay base and had to dry out before the heavy equipment could move in. The driveway and fencing were finished during the second week of December 2006. A road sign on route 628 announced the park was coming and an eight by ten inch "OPEN" sign was placed on each side... the park was officially open.
The December weather, before Christmas 2006, was very mild and by the first weekend, we were getting hundreds of visitors per day. We had thought that the Park would get no visitors in the very cold weather and snow. WRONG AGAIN! The dogs loved romping in the snow with no mind to the temperature. As of this writing, we are getting over 1000 visitors a week!
As for fundraising, the key to the park’s success – pavers, benches, and business signs, were sold and direct donations came in at a very good pace.