RICHLAND — For members of the Tri-City Dog Park Society, seeing the temporary dog park in south Richland become a permanent reality is a "dream come true."
Jan Davis, the society's vice president, said that she has been involved with efforts to bring an off-leash dog park to the Tri-Cities for four years.
The 2.5-acre temporary park -- called "Paws-abilities Place" -- has been operating inside Badger Mountain Community Park on Keene Road since July 2009. Meanwhile, volunteers have worked to raise money to finish the improvements that would make it a permanent spot where dogs and their owners can frolic.
But with a $16,000 donation accepted by the Richland City Council on Tuesday and a council vote to shift $30,000 in unused park money to the dog park, enough money is in the pot to finish the project.
Phil Pinard, Richland's parks planning and capital projects manager, said the city had money earmarked for security cameras at the Jeanette Taylor skate park, but for various reasons isn't ready to install cameras there.
"Right now there's money that's been sitting unspent, so let's put it to use," Pinard said. "We looked at all of our priorities for this year and (the dog park) was very high on the list. It was the first one that wasn't completely funded, and it was so close to being done it was one of those, 'Let's get it done' kind of things."
The dog park society previously raised $16,000, and Pinard said the city already had invested about $30,000 in the park. With the new money, total money for the park will go to about $92,000.
Volunteers already have installed fences -- including fencing off an area where small dogs can run and play without fear of encountering larger dogs.
The next step is to install an irrigation system the city has purchased and to either hydroseed grass or lay sod, Pinard said.
The decision whether to hydroseed or lay sod depends on money and having volunteers willing to do the back-breaking work of putting sod down.
"Without volunteer efforts, we wouldn't be where we are today," Pinard said.
If hydroseeding is chosen, the grass would need time to establish and the park officially would open this fall.
Laying sod would allow the park to open sooner, Pinard said.
Work crews also need to hang gates and lay memorial brick tiles that have been bought by donors to help support the dog park.
And a stone sign inscribed with the park's name and a memorial to Audrey Ulrich, the late president of the Tri-City Dog Park Society who died in a car accident in the fall of 2009, will have to be moved to a permanent location inside the park.
Ulrich was a tireless crusader for a Tri-City off-leash dog park for several years until her death. Her efforts included bringing daylong demonstration dog parks to the area to show people how an off-leash park would work.
It was one of those demonstration parks that convinced Davis to join the society and help with its efforts.
She now takes her three German shepherds to the temporary park as many as five times per week, but her dogs aren't the only ones having fun.
"What people maybe don't even think about is it is such a social event not only for the dogs, but also for the people," Davis said. "I have met some of the nicest people and made very good friends just by going to the dog park."
* Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org