SPRING HILL — Free-roaming canines will touch each other's moist noses, sniff new acquaintances and socialize with just-made friends when the county's first dog park opens with a ceremony from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Rotary Centennial Park, off Landover Boulevard and bounded by Sandlor Street and Portillo Road, has been four years in the making — an idea proposed and mostly financed by the Rotary Club of Spring Hill Central — on an 8-acre site dedicated to the community by Spring Hill developer the Deltona Corp.
The $200,000 project — the first phase — includes separate runs for small dogs, larger dogs, service dogs and those on leashes not yet comfortable with other four-footed company.
"I think the dog park will be busy every day of the week," said county parks director Pat Fagan. "I personally want to thank the Rotary Club and the public for support of our first dog park. They don't use other parks, and they should have an opportunity of a park of their own."
He noted the popularity of Bark Beach, the program that takes place one Saturday morning each month. Dogs are welcome to enjoy the gulf waters at Alfred A. McKethan Park at Pine Island then.
The new park includes perimeter fencing, run fencing over newly laid turf, restrooms, 25 parking spaces and decorative plantings.
The Rotary Club's search for support and fundraising was broad and, in the end, successful, despite hard economic times. Rotary president Josh Kelly praised former county Commissioner Diane Rowden for moving the plans forward through the permitting process, and he thanked Cemex for a $10,000 pledge for paving; Blackrock Construction of Florida, the general contractor, which donated all of its time; Home Depot for a $10,000 contribution; an anonymous donor of $6,000; Withlachoochee River Electric Cooperative for providing $6,700 for lighting; Leadership Hernando for an influx of $3,600; Wal-Mart for a donation of $2,000; and Flagstone Pavers of Brooksville for brick pavers that eventually will line all sidewalks with names engraved at $50 for one's pet or family.
When people visit the new park, Fagan is hopeful they will contribute for future development. More phases are on the drawing board that will eventually make the park a general-use facility, with recreational equipment for children, volleyball and basketball courts, and picnic facilities.
In the meantime, Fagan is happy to finally have the dog park open.
"People knew it was going to take time," he said. "Even though it took four years, it's a quality product, a quality park and well worth waiting for."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.