Proposed City Dog Park Still in Works

Thus far, finding a location for a dog park in Wheeling has been an exercise in tail-chasing – but organizers of the effort believe they’re close to a breakthrough.

It’s been almost a year since Wheeling won $25,000 runner-up prize in PetSafe’s online Bark for Your Park contest, in which cities from around the country compete to see who can rack up the most votes and win up to $100,000 to build their very own canine playgrounds.

Jeremy Morris, co-founder of the Wheeling Dog Park Association, said he hopes to be able to announce a location for the park in the next few weeks. He said the group is looking at city-owned land, but he couldn’t be more specific.

Organizers originally identified a site along Wheeling Heritage Trail near the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex off Interstate 470 in Elm Grove, but efforts to contact the owner of that land have been unsuccessful.

“It’s still a possibility, but it’s been so hard to pin it down. … We’re kind of looking at other options,” Morris said.

According to the contest rules, PetSafe will hold the prize money for three years, so Wheeling has until summer 2016 to get construction going before it would have to worry about losing the $25,000.

Morris said the ideal site would have access to water, plenty of grass and trees for shade and be relatively flat.

It also likely would need to be about an acre in size, he said, to provide room for separate areas for larger and smaller dogs.

Building a dog park likely will cost about $50,000, including fencing and an agility course, Morris said.

Organizers have held some small fundraisers over the past year, such as dog walks at Oglebay Park and “Yappy Hours” at Quaker Steak and Lube at The Highlands.

The Wheeling Nailers hosted a “Pucks for Pups” event at WesBanco Arena in March, during which dog owners got to bring their pooches to the game, with a portion of proceeds donated to the dog park effort.

The drive to raise money will really ramp up after a site is identified, and Morris said the community’s interest in building a dog park park remains strong.

“I still get stopped at the grocery store, and when I went to vote, the ladies at the entrance asked me about it,” he said.

As a state, West Virginia continues to do well in the Bark for Your Park contest, as Beckley is among 15 finalists in this summer’s competition.

In 2012, Huntington won the $100,000 grand prize, followed by Wheeling’s $25,000 score in 2013.

Voting in the competition is open at www.petsafe.net.