Grass Valley’s parks suffer from the lack of funds right now, as in all of California, but it sometimes feels more obvious because we rely so heavily on fewer resources than large cities. One way that communities can add to recreational resources during tough times is by public/private partnerships.

The nonprofit organization, Dogs Run Free of Nevada County, has been working for the last three years to get a dog park built within an existing Grass Valley city park.

We’ve finally got our ducks in a row and an approved site at Condon Park, thanks to the support from volunteers, petition signers, local businesses and the Grass Valley City Council and hardworking City Department of Public Works staff members.

We all recognize an outstanding opportunity to take an otherwise unused portion of Condon Park and dedicate it to a place where people can unleash their dogs to run and socialize.

We will build fencing, ADA walkways, parking and bring in water.

All signs are pointing toward putting shovel to dirt this summer and soon we’ll have our “leash-cutting” ceremony!

Dog owners are typically a large segment of park users. According to the Humane Society of the U. S. and the American Veterinarian’s Association, there are approximately 36 percent of households with at least one dog.

That’s a large portion of the citizenry that currently has no place to safely exercise their dogs, away from cars and unaware citizens in the residential and commercial areas, and away from prey-chasing out in the rural areas.

The more people using Grass Valley parks, the safer and friendlier they are. A designated area for off-leash dogs keeps them out of other areas and promotes responsible dog ownership.

A dog park in Condon Park will be a privately funded capital improvement for the use of the public. Also, tourists increasingly travel with their dogs and are attracted to destinations that appear dog-friendly, with recreational facilities for people and dogs.

Local dog park folks now drive to Penn Valley or Auburn to let their dogs run free.

Socializing your dog is a good way to socialize with your neighbor and meet new people.

Daily users will monitor the area and feel pride of ownership.

Typically, in dog parks, peer pressure encourages proper use, dog behavior supervision, and picking up waste.

It’s one of those places that, when you show up at the same time on the same day for a few weeks, you get to know everyone well, if not by their name, at least by their dog’s name.

You learn a lot, too; dedicated dog owners are happy to share helpful information and priceless referrals. Check out a dog park some day if you haven’t already. You’ll witness a very active group; dogs chasing balls and each other, and people with plastic poop bags in hand chatting and observing their dogs play or walking around following their dogs through the park.

Socializing with other dogs and humans reduces fear and aggression in dogs, and increases relaxation and friendliness. Dogs in off-leash areas are being supervised, they learn manners, and get exposed to new things in a neutral and friendly environment. Well behaved dogs stay out of shelters.

We have approximately 85 percent of our budget secured, thanks to Al Salter, who directed part of his estate for a dog park when he passed away.

We’ve sat in booths at fairs large and small, providing information, selling T-shirts and talking up the project.

Many volunteers have stepped up to the plate, dedicated professionals such as engineers, arborists, forestry and land management and weed-control specialists, and financial and grant -writing pros, who have donated their expertise so we can prepare site plans and professional presentations.

It’s been fun stomping around the site lately, with dog park enthusiasts, sharing ideas and insights, all for the love of building a wonderful new facility.

Now we are into the final push. We need community-minded individuals and businesses who agree with our goals and can provide further financial support for this outstanding project. Dogs Run Free will recognize you or your business with a “thanks to” donor-recognition plaque.

How uplifting for the whole town when we celebrate the opening of a new “park within a park” at Condon, where Dogs Run Free.

Together we can add a whole new population of park-goers to the mix; enjoying their dogs, each other, and, not least, the natural foothill beauty that is Grass Valley.