Hunter, a yellow lab, likes Hill’s Bark Park because there is a lot of room for fetch.
“He loves it over here,” said Darian Weich, Hunter’s owner. “Our backyard is pretty small so it is good to get him out and run.”
She had no major complaints about the dog park, but she was hoping to see improvements to the water bowl area. Weich said the plastic bowls are knocked down and create muddy areas.
Weich’s hope for a less-muddy park could soon be reality after a $175,000 donation from Hill’s Pet Nutrition will double the size of the bark park and fund other improvements.
The large dog section will expand into the ball field while the small dog section will grow into the current large dog section. Two separate parking lots, updated entryways, replacing “most, if not all” of the fencing, LED lighting, more shade structures in the large dog section, work on the turf to prevent muddy spots and new amenities are also coming to the park.
“It’s no fun when you show up there and your dog has to walk through the mud,” said Tim Laurent, director of the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Department.
He said the full scope of new amenities is still being determined, and anyone with suggestions can email [email protected]
Eden Johnson welcomed an expansion of the dog park because it is “a magnet” that attracts people from all over the country. She said cross country travelers are looking for bark parks so their dogs stretch their legs.
“People come here two to four times a day,” Johnson said. “We survived the (pandemic) because of this social circle.”
The $175,000 donation was presented to the Parks for All Foundation at Thursday’s Shawnee County Commission meeting. At that meeting, the commissioners voted 2-0 to authorize a 10-year naming agreement to change the name to Hill’s Bark Park at Gage Park.
Shawnee County commissioners Aaron Mays was attending the 2021 Kansas County Commissioners Association Annual Conference and wasn’t at the meeting.
The park could be temporarily closed while the fence is being replaced, but it is too early to determine if that will happen. The department will try to accommodate people as best it can while work takes place, said the department’s communications and public information director Mike McLaughlin.
Improvements to Hill’s Bark Park could be a key feature in the Gage Park Master Plan. The department is still creating the plan and will request public feedback once it is complete, Laurent said.
“We feel comfortable about what we are doing right now,” he said.
Evert Nelson contributed to this story.