New 'bark park' serves more than just pet owners

ContributedPoppy, left, and Daisy run around the Milford Bark Park and Learning Center during its grand opening Thursday, Nov. 12, in Milford’s Wilber Park. 

A new dog park opened in Milford last week.

The Milford Bark Park and Learning Center had its official unveiling Thursday, Nov. 12, in Wilber Park.

Milford native Kimberly Winsor said she first started dreaming about the project in 2013 and has been working seriously on getting it approved and funded since the beginning of last year. A Rotary District Grant and a gift from the Milford Macs — the local baseball team her grandfather, former Otsego County Rep. Deane Winsor, founded and managed — helped build the fencing around the dog area, which is behind the pavilion in Wilber Park.

“The idea is this is not just a dog park, with a fence around a field,” she said. “It is a community place where people can get together.”

The project got a big boost from the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad and its president, Bruce Hodges, which leased the land for the park, Winsor said. Village officials, including Mayor Brian Pokorny, were supportive as well, she said.

The Milford Rotary Foundation also helped tremendously, she said. And a local Boy Scout, Jacob Reynolds, built a community area in the park, including benches, a picnic table and a bulletin board as part of his Eagle Scout project. Lowe’s waived delivery costs for the materials for the project and Munson’s True Value offered help as well, she said.

“The community has been so supportive,” Winsor said.

Winsor said she hopes to teach dog safety classes to school kids in the park. She said she has discussed the plan with Milford Central School teachers and has gotten positive feedback on it.

“To be honest it has been such a big push to get it open before the snow falls that we are just starting to work on the next part, which is the classes,” she said. “Because of COVID, we are leading with caution. We want parents to feel that their kids are in a safe place. It is outdoors, so it should be safe, but we want to take care and make sure we protect everyone in our community.”

Getting the grants, leasing the land and getting village approval took nearly 18 months, Winsor said. It was a longer process than she expected and it was delayed by the pandemic.

However, once final approvals were in place, building the dog area only took about two weekends, Winsor said, with volunteers working in pairs to avoid contact with other groups.

“We tried to schedule it so husband-wife teams or other people who were already in contact with one another were working together,” she said.

The village has agreed to do basic maintenance, but Winsor said the bark park’s backers will work with the village to help maintain the space.

The grants paid for the $3,500 project, but safety costs because of the pandemic and dog bags and other sanitation concerns have caused some overruns, Winsor said. So she has set up a fundraiser to pay for the maintenance costs.

To donate, email Winsor at kimberlyawinsor@gmail.com. She said there will also be a Facebook page set up for The Milford Bark Park and Learning Center soon.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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