BowWOW Bash marks dog park's first anniversary
Build a dog park and they will come -- and come.
Since it opened its gates one year ago, Godown Park has become Worthington's busiest parkland, except for the Olentangy Trail, according Worthington Parks and Recreation director Darren Hurley.
"We have been happy with the way things have gone," Hurley said during the July 14 BowWOW Bash, a celebration of the park's first anniversary.
Hundreds turned out to mark the occasion, which included exhibits and vendors set up at the 10-acre Godown Road park. Many arrived with dogs in tow and probably came more for the park than the festivities, said Jennifer Lyon, founder of Worthington Organized Off-Leash Friends (WOOF).
"The first year has been fabulous. I've heard nothing but wonderful comments," she said.
She sees the comments on the WOOF Facebook page and in surveys of dog owners and hears from people at the park and around town.
Not only do the dogs love the park, but their owners also meet each other and form a community, she said.
She described one person who brings a 92-year-old father who likes to sit on a bench and watch the dogs play. They don't have their own dog, but that doesn't matter.
"It's doing the thing we hoped it would, beyond exercising dogs," Lyon said. "It's bringing the community together."
The dogs and owners also were celebrating the opening of the back section of the park. Until last week, only a portion of the big dog park was open while crews finished grading and waiting for grass to take root.
With the additional space, everyone could spread out and the big dogs could take longer runs, dog owner and WOOF volunteer Karen Young said.
"It doubled the size, and it went from being a good dog park to being a great dog park," she said.
The park was a brainchild of WOOF, growing out of a grassroots meeting at the Old Worthington Library about five years ago.
Turnout and interest at the meeting ran high; groundwork was done; and committees were formed.
When Worthington city officials were approached about the interest, they became involved in seeking land, and several Worthington sites were considered.
The city of Columbus then became involved. It had dog parks on the east, west and south sides of the city but nothing on the north.
Godown Road seemed to be the natural choice because it is owned by Worthington but is on the north side of Columbus. Worthington had purchased the land 20-plus years earlier. Plans to put soccer fields there never materialized, and the land was used only as a tree nursery for the city of Worthington.
Columbus paid to construct the park, with grading, fences and a parking lot. Worthington is responsible for maintenance, and WOOF -- currently 650 members strong -- continues to support the park, both with contributions and volunteer hours.