CARTERVILLE — Canine citizens of Carterville have a new place to play.
The new Carterville Bark Park officially opened this past Wednesday in Cannon Park. The park is a project of Carterville Area Rotary Club.
About five years ago, Janice and John McConnaughy took their dogs to Murphysboro to check out the dog park in Riverside Park. While there, they met Patty Bateman, who worked on getting the dog park in Murphysboro.
“I thought, 'Wouldn’t it be great for Carterville to have something like this, not only for dog owners. It is also a great place to meet people,'” McConnaghy said.
So, she took the idea to Carterville Area Rotary Club. Rich Davis of Century 21 was club president, and he gave McConnaughy the go-ahead to form a committee and begin working on a dog park project.
McConnaughy met with Bill Mausey, who was mayor of Carterville at the time, and several City Council members. All of them supported the project.
She said support from the city has been great. The City Council gave the dog park committee one acre in Cannon Park, directly behind the community center, to build the park. They also agreed to cut the grass in the park.
Current Mayor Brad Robinson has supported the project since he was a mayoral candidate.
When McConnaughy was hired by the city of Carterville, she wanted to avoid a conflict of interest. So McConnaughy asked the late Bill Searcy to lead the Bark Park project.
“He led it for three years and got it approved through City Council,” McConnaughy said.
Searcy resigned from the committee earlier this year, about two months before he and his wife, Pat, were killed in an airplane crash in September.
McConnaughy said funding was the big hurdle. She researched the cost of dog parks and discovered they would need around $26,000 to complete the project. So, they began raising money.
“We have had a 5K Dog Jog the past two years as well, proceeds have gone toward the dog park,” Rotary member Brian Flath said. “Those will continue to fund needs at the facility.”
Last year, a portion of funds raised at the club’s gala went to the Bark Park.
“The dog park was the primary beneficiary,” Flath said.
“The gala raised a large amount that allowed us to buy the fencing and have it installed,” McConnaughy said.
She said she felt it was important to have black vinyl-coated fencing.
“I felt like the finished project should be something the city and Rotary would be very proud of,” McConnaughy added.
The group started another project to get benches for the Bark Park — saving plastic soda caps. Flath said a company in Evansville, Indiana, will trade the caps for benches.
The entire town seemed to embrace this part of the project. Tri-C Elementary Schools collected caps, as did city offices and Rotary members.
“The caps and plastic lids project has been going for about a year,” McConnaughy said. “Last week, John (McConnaghy), Jason Cook and Bill Renn with school district went and traded caps for six 8-foot benches.”
Plans are underway with John A. Logan College to construct a pavilion over the six benches in the spring.
Both McConnaughy and Flath say without the city of Carterville’s generosity, Rotary could never have completed the Bark Park project.
A ribbon cutting event and grand opening will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15. The Bark Park is open from sunrise to sunset daily.