Hernando city officials, volunteers, Parks and Recreation Foundation officials along with Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi representatives cut the ribbon Friday for the new Hernando Dog Park.
The Hernando Dog Park is open for two-legged visitors and their four-legged friends, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at Renasant Park. “I think in my heart it really says something about the citizens of Hernando and the passion and perseverance of the people to raise the money and bring it to fruition,” said Cindy Gordon with Fairway Mortgage and a member of the Board of Directors for the Hernando Parks and Recreation Foundation,which has an endowed fund with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.
Gordon said the Hernando Parks and Recreation Foundation raised more than $33,000, in addition to more than $8,000 in-kind gifts and donations on top of that amount. “We need to thank our leaders, which includes our Mayor and our Board of Aldermen and our public works department who worked tirelessly on this,” Gordon said. Gordon deputized Jennifer Hill, an employee of her company who has a love for dogs, to assist her on the project. “When Cindy asked me to do this, it was a perfect fit,” said Hill. “It was right up my alley. I do mortgages, and I see a lot of people who live in apartments and who don’t have adequate room for pets. I worry about them having enough room to run around.” Hill has four pets of her own, most of which are rescue dogs, including a Siberian Husky mix and two dachsunds. “I just love animals,” Hill added. “I think that’s why this happened. Because everyone involved in this just loves animals.” Off leash dog parks are growing faster than any other type of parks in America’s largest cities, according to Gordon, who cited the 2015 Trust for Public Land report. The push for a dog park in Hernando began about five years ago with a local citizen, David Rucker. After the project stalled, mostly due to lack of funding, the City of Hernando asked the Parks and Recreation to take the lead. Gordon said through a social media effort and stories in the newspaper, the dog park project began to pick up steam. Funds were raised through a silent auction and events like “Mugs & Margaritas,” “Photos with Santa” and hundreds of handmade signs sold at the Hernando Farmers Market.“The community support was overwhelming,” said Gordon. “We’ve had interest and contributions from so many people. This has been a very popular project from the beginning, and many, many people have helped us along the way.” “I’m not trying to pull any heartstrings, but I had a lady in a wheelchair come up to me at the Farmers Market who wanted to contribute and she gave me a dollar. We’ve had people who stopped by and given $50 or whatever they could.” Area veterinarians, Alderwoman Cathy Brooks, Andrew Miller and others were instrumental for the city’s part in the project, according to Gordon. “There is just a long list of individuals to thank,” Gordon said. For her part, Brooks said the entire effort has involved people, and dogs, fromall walks of life. “This has been such a labor of love among the people,” Brooks said as she gently held her pet Sherman Shepherd mix “Swayze,” a rescue dog, on a leash. “It’s really been a long time coming.
They are still going to take donations to help maintain the park. I think people and their animals are really going to enjoy it.”Shelly Capps, another major organizer of the project, and the co-chairman for the dog park project, said the park, which includes fenced areas for small and large dogs, also provides a place for their owners to congregate. “It’s wonderful for our community,” Capps said. “It will become a place to socialize in our community.” Erin Laughter, a dog lover, said she now has a place to take her black Labrador Retriever, “Bear,” named for legendary Alabama football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. “I’ve never had a place to take him before,” Laughter said. ”This is a place where he can be free. “He always had to be on a leash before.” Melissa Young, her daughter Call an Young and her pet Bassett hound “Cash” explored the park in all its dimensions. “We’re thankful for this park because he has a lot of energy were weren’t able to burn off ourselves,” Young said. Judy Baker and her rescue dog “Hope” said the park gives animals who were once abandoned a sense of hope. “It’s just a great place for people and animals in this community,” Baker said.