ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47)-- If you have a dog, at some point or another, you have most likely thought that your back or front yard, may be a little small for your furry friend. One brand new park in Owatonna is trying to remedy that problem for the local residents.
Mary Jo Knudson, who is an administrative assistant for Owatonna Parks and Recreation, described the new park to "FOX in the Morning" and how it came to be. “We have 1.6 acres of brand new dog park for the citizens of Owatonna. We are very excited. It is something that has been in the works for a long time but it has not been in the budget. As you know, city budgets get cut and dog parks are not on the top of the 'food chain',” said Knudson. But, we had the opportunity to take a look at this piece of land as one of our parks. We had some fences that we re-purposed from old softball diamonds and we used that as the dog park fence. And we were able to, with a little bit of man power, get this done for kind of a low budget and it has been used a lot in the past week that it has been open. So, we are pretty excited about it,” Knudson said.
Open, yet still under development, Knudson says they have big plans for the park and the Lake Chase area, in general. “Lake Chase is one of the parks that we are looking at developing a little bit further down the road, with different plans coming through. There is a trail on the other side of the lake that at some point, we want to come along through Lake Chase and have this be a 'family friendly' park. There are fish in our lake, and we're trying to get a little something for everybody. It is always nice to bring your little furry friend or furry family member (as we like to think of them) along, when we go on picnics and things like that. We are going to be adding a few more picnic tables here and some extra dog toys, teeter-totters, things like that, as we go along. But we wanted to get it open first and see what everybody thinks and we've gotten really positive reviews so far,” explained Knudson.
One person who has been trying to get the park open for quite awhile is the Director of Parks and Recreation: James “Corky” Ebeling. He says that persistence has paid off.
“ A board member, who just retired after six years, said the other day that this was on his agenda his first meeting and he was on his last meeting. It finally was going to get done, but he did not get to be a board member and see it done,” explained Ebeling. “It has been in and out of the budget for years and finally we were able to come up with re-purposing some fencing. Basically, the cost to the city ended up being only the labor to put the fence in. The dog park became a reality when hard dollars did not become a factor and we got the thing open. So, here we are today and we are appreciated by many.
Before we parted company, Ebeling shared a story with "FOX in the Morning;" regarding an Owatonnian couples wishes for the dog park. “There was a couple that was going to move away from their current community and they were considering Owatonna,” said Ebeling. And the one reason they were calling was, that they had heard a rumor that we were getting a dog park. And if we did not get the dog park, they were not moving here. That is what the people who took the call told me. How true that is, I am not exactly sure, but that is what they said,” explained Ebeling. “This park is ultimately for the dogs but it becomes just as much for the people.”