Caroline Boback decided to take her two basset hounds on a tour of dog parks along the east coast, visiting "almost every dog park between New York and North Carolina."
But after returning home to Niagara Falls, she decided the city where she was born and raised should have a dog park of its own, a place for dogs and dog-lovers to gather, network, socialize and train. So she set out on a mission to make it happen, and now, about five years later, Boback's mission is nearly accomplished.
"It's so nice to have my vision finally becoming a reality," said Boback of the dog park currently being built at DeVeaux Woods State Park. "It's about 90 percent done, we need to get the grass done and then make sure the fences are secure. Everything else is complete."
Boback, the owner of Caroline's Critter Care, said her efforts to bring a dog park to Niagara Falls began as a grassroots project. She started by doing some homework, looking to see what would be required to bring the park to fruition, how to fund it and who to contact to get the ball rolling.
She made up a "business plan," and surveyed residents to get some feedback on the plan, some of which she described as negative, people made comments that the park was "never going to happen." Eventually, Boback said she was connected with Niagara Falls Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, who she said was very supportive of the idea.
Piccirillo said the process has been very "citizen-led" and that the public was given the opportunity to be a part of the planning.
“I think it’s important to listen to our residents and try to do park improvements that people are looking for as opposed to having the city making decisions by itself,” Piccirillo said. He added that park is being completed with the help of a $200,000 federal grant and assistance from New York state, which was cooperative in allowing the dog park to be constructed at DeVeaux Woods State Park.
Boback, who has been involved in the process of designing the park, said the park will be laid out to accommodate the needs of various types of dogs. She said the park will consist of a large circular enclosure with an inner and outer area.
Most of the park will be freely accessible by any dog, but there are private tracks along the outer edge of the park for dogs that don't get on well with other dogs or dogs that just need to run laps. The park will be doubled gated for safety, so that dog owners and remove or put on their dog's leash in a safe space before exiting the park.
In addition, the park will be furnished with benches, drinking fountains, pet waste disposal stations and a doggy bathing area for dogs who get dirty during their visit. One thing that isn't on hand is trees, Boback said, adding that in the future, she'd like to see something set up where residents can buy trees for the park in memory of their pets or simply as a donation.
Though she's an animal-lover and felt that a dog park would improve the quality of life for the dogs of Niagara Falls, Boback said she also wanted to be involved in something that would give the community a boost. She hopes that others will see the park and realize that, with a little perseverance, anything is possible.
"I just wanted to do this park to hopefully inspire community residents," she said. "With hard work and passion, you can do anything. This is something I wanted to do for my fellow residents, for my dogs, for my family and it's happening. I want people to use that as an inspiration to get going and make the community better."