Fenton Twp. — Dog parks affect more than just the fenced-in space and furry friends who come to play. 

 On Sunday, Nov. 24, hundreds of people brought their dogs to celebrate the second anniversary of the Thompson Road Regional Dog Park. It helped celebrate a community-wide effort years in the making. 

 The two-acre community dog park, on Thompson Road just east of Wiggins Road, officially opened in November 2017. The park, funded by donations, features two fenced-in sections, one for big dogs and one for smaller dogs. Its amenities have grown in the past two years. Dogs can run and play on agility equipment made by Linden resident Sam Levi, who made the pieces for his Eagle Scout project. 

 Users can hang their dog’s leash on racks and grab a plastic bag for waste disposal from one of the plastic bag stands. The park now has four benches, all sponsored by local businesses. 

 Dog parks are often community-supported and invested projects. 

 Kris Johns, one of the Grand Blanc Dog Park coordinators, said they recently had their five-year anniversary for the Grand Blanc park. 

 “The main goal is to give a space for people to come with their dogs. So many people love their dogs. It creates a sense of community. People who may not interact meet because of their dogs,” he said. 

 The National Recreation and Park Association conducted a survey in 2018 that found that 91 percent of Americans believe dog parks benefit the community they serve. The top three benefits were

giving dogs a safe space to exercise and roam freely (60 percent), they allow dogs to socialize with other dogs (39 percent), and they allow owners a chance to be physically active with their pet (36 percent).

 “People are willing to give their time and their money. We’ve been able to raise awareness for animal shelters and canine- related groups,” Johns said. 

 It also inspires a lot of participation and support from local businesses. 

 “Local businesses are always looking to support positive community projects. We were raising money last year to buy a bite suit for officers and businesses were more than willing to support the project,” he said. “We’ve found that in this area, especially in Genesee County, people are more than willing to support positive things that help canines.”

 Organizers with the Thompson Road Regional Dog Park have made similar efforts and have seen results. Two benches are sponsored by Financial Plus Credit Union, one is sponsored by Fenton Winery & Brewery and the fourth is sponsored by Vic Canever Chevrolet.

 The Sunday event saw booths from local businesses and organizations such as Uncle Ray’s Dairyland, Financial Plus Credit Union, Concept HOPE (Helping Orphaned Pets Through Education), which helps support stray animals, Camp Bow Wow, and Joannie’s Place, a senior dog sanctuary. 

What’s next for the Thompson Road Regional Dog Park?

 Nancy Draves, dog park committee member, said it’s a popular spot for socializing. Their future goals include maintaining the park. 

 “This next spring I’d like to regrade the road and put another layer of asphalt millings down,” she said. “We’ve got to meet this winter and solidify everything, but we’d like to see a pavilion on each side or one in the middle.”

 Organizer and committee member Keri Kostich has been thinking about structures similar to baseball dugouts, which would help protect dog owners from the weather.

 “It doesn’t matter what the weather is, people are out here with their dogs. I’ve been out here in snow pants,” she said. 

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