With all the talk of a new recreation facility on the way for East Wheeling, man's best friends may have been feeling a little left out.
Now, they may not have to. Wheeling has advanced to the final round of PetSafe's "Bark for Your Park" competition, a nationwide online contest with a grand prize of $100,000 toward construction of a dog park.
Wheeling had been one of almost 1,000 communities vying for a shot at the grand prize, but now it is one of just 15. Its first round vote total of 3,027 wasn't tops on the first round leaderboard, but it turned out to be enough to move on.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Jeremy Morris spends some quality time with his canine companion, Lily, at Wheeling’s Heritage Port. Morris is helping lead an effort to get a dog park build in the city.
As the competition heats up, though, the Friendly City has gotten off to a strong start. Just a few hours after final round voting began, Wheeling was approaching 600 votes, putting it in third place among the 15 finalists. Those finalists also include Auburn, N.Y.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Mountain House, Calif.; Pontiac, Ill.; Texarkana, Texas; Brighton, Tenn.; East Hartford, Conn.; New Braunfels, Texas; Safford, Ariz.; West Columbia, S.C.; Conway, Ark.; Mason City, Iowa; Oxford, Ala.; and Silver Cliff, Colo.
In addition to the $100,000 grand prize, PetSafe is giving four additional $25,000 awards, including one for the community whose final vote total represents the largest percentage of its population. With a one-in-three shot at winning at least one of those prizes, organizers are excited about Wheeling's chances.
"We think we definitely have the ability to compete with all these cities," said Gregg Boury, who along with fellow dog lover Jeremy Morris is spearheading the community's effort to build a dog park in Wheeling. "The level of support we have received has been phenomenal. ... The people are passionate about their dogs, so they're passionate about winning this money. It's been great, and it's been a pleasant surprise."
Late last year, Boury and Morris formed a group of like-minded dog owners late last year calling itself "Wheeling Needs a Dog Park!" Its members are determined to realize their goal, no matter how the PetSafe contest turns out, as they're actively seeking ways to raise money. The city has agreed to maintain the facility if the group can find a way to get it built.
The proposed location for the park is a strip of land along Wheeling Heritage Trail, across Interstate 470 from the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex in Elm Grove.
The city is working with the owner to secure permission to use that land for a dog park, but officials have pledged the use of city-owned property for the park if that falls through.
Boury believes a dog park will make Wheeling a more attractive place to live. He noted several members of his committee have relocated from other communities that had dog parks, and access to such a facility is important to them.
To vote, go to www.petsafe.net. Each person can vote twice per day, once on that website and once on PetSafe's Facebook page.
Also, people can visit www.wheelingdogpark.com to learn more about the community effort to get a dog park built in the Friendly City.