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By Ed Moreth 

Group wants to build dog park in Plains


September 16, 2021

A Plains resident announced to the town council at last Tuesday’s monthly meeting that a group of locals would like to construct a dog park and although the majority of the work would be done with volunteers and donations, they might need the town’s help with insurance and lease of the property from the railroad.

“There’s no hoping, we’re going to put in a dog park; it’s going to happen,” said Sandy Thompson, who asked council about leasing a 26,500-square foot area next to Fred Young Park from Montana Rail Link. Thompson is a member of the Plains Dog Park Community Planning Group, a new organization that is seeking its nonprofit status and is trying to get a dog park created for Plains. The group is headed by Shelley Bertrand, a Plains resident who owns Paws Here Pet Styling on Hubbard Street, located less than a block from the proposed dog park site.

Plains Mayor Dan Rowan told Thompson that while he supports a dog park, he’s unsure how much funds, if any, the town could come up with to help pay for it. Rowan said that the railroad has already told him the property could be leased. The town pays $408 a year to lease the Fred Young property, which is about the same size of the area for the proposed dog park. Plains also leases the greenway along Railroad Street.

The four members of the group — Bertrand, Thompson, Helen Bertrand, Shelley’s daughter, and Charles Bickenheuser — met at Fred Young Park on Sunday afternoon for a little over an hour to discuss a plan of action. The biggest barrier is the cost for the 500 feet of fencing, gates and the irrigation system. Shelley Bertrand, who is leading the undertaking, believes the fencing will be around $10,000, which would also cover the concrete and supplies, but wouldn’t cover installation, something that would be done by volunteers. She hasn’t received any numbers for irrigation costs, but she said she’d like to see an underground system. Bickenheuser volunteered to look into grants for the project and said he has experience in writing grants.

The group plans to hold fundraisers and hopes to get donations from local businesses. They also plan to look for sponsorships and put signs up along the fence with the sponsors’ names. In addition, they’d like to place donations cans in shops around town. Once they officially get their nonprofit status, they will be opening accounts at both local banks for people to send donations. “People are very generous in this town. I don’t think we’ll have a problem,” said Thompson, who plans to get on the town council meeting agenda to officially request help with funding. She added that they plan to recruit volunteers to help with maintenance once it’s built.

“It’s just an eye sore right now, and it’s definitely a fire hazard,” said Bertrand. The area is overgrown with high grass and weeds. She said it’s a fire waiting to happen. “We can make it safer and look a lot better and it’s good for the community,” said Bertrand, who added that they would do the upkeep in the area on the other side of the walking trail, the east boundary of the proposed dog park, which is also overgrown.

Bertrand said they’ve been talking about getting a dog park for years, but now they’re ready to take action on the project. Thompson said they plan to have a large sliding gate to get a mower through, and a double gate system so a dog owner can go through one gate and close it before opening the second gate, preventing dogs from shooting out of the park. The park will be sectioned off — one part for small dogs and one for larger ones. There will be trash cans at the park and they hope to get a dog poop bag dispenser installed. They also talked about some type of fountain where the dogs can cool off on hot days, along with big tires and welded rings for training. Bertrand said a fenced in park opens the opportunity to bring in dog trainers, too. Thompson believes that 99% of the people will clean up after their dogs, but she added that they plan to have volunteers to periodically check on the park and clean up those who don’t.

“It’s a win-win for the town. People can take their dogs some place to run and play and they wouldn’t be in the other parks where kids are playing,” said Bertrand, who said she would definitely use it for her dogs. She said now people take their dogs to Fred Young Park, the E.L. Johnson Memorial Park or along the greenway, and a lot of times they don’t clean up the dog feces. At the Plains Town Council meeting last week, Ron Warren said people have been leaving their dogs in the fenced areas of the softball fields at the Amundson Sports Complex and not cleaning up after them. A sign at the opening of the complex clearly states no dogs. “Our dog park is not a doggy day care,” said Bertrand. “You can’t just drop them off and leave. It’s a place to take your dog to play.”

Thompson plans to get with those who operate the dog parks in Thompson Falls, St. Regis and Kalispell to find out how they run their parks. Helen Bertrand will be asking the school metal shop if they would be interested in making two benches for the park.

A person at the council meeting said the park would cause more traffic problems in town, but Bertrand said it’s not an amusement park and doesn’t believe it’ll cause any parking difficulties, adding that they already have a lot of local support.

“Hopefully, with the dogs in town having their own park, it will cut down on the damage and mess to our other parks in the area. It also tells everyone that we as a community value our animals and want them to have a safe space to play and run and train,” said Bertrand. “I think it’ll help bring people together more. They’ll have their dogs there and dogs help people open up. Everybody likes talking about their dogs,” said Helen  Bertrand.

“It’s a vision that’s going to become a reality,” said Thompson.


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