Erie MetroParks told the public to take a hike Sunday. Literally.
More than 200 people enjoyed the afternoon of hiking, refreshments and socializing as part of the fifth annual Go Take a Hike program.
Joyce Deering, president of Friends of Erie MetroParks, said this year's kickoff, at Osborn Park, was a little different than years past.
“We do this every year to get people out and into the parks,” she said. “It’s a way to introduce new parks to them, ones they may never have heard of. We have a lot of dog lovers out here this year, particularly to catch a glimpse at the dog park.”
Thanks to years of planning and fundraising events, canines and their owners were able to take a peak at the 4-acre, newly established Erie Metro Bark Park.
The park—just off of Hull Road— will open officially today and then be open every day from 8 a.m. until dark. It is the first place in the Erie MetroParks system where dogs can go off leash and run free.
Erie MetroParks director Stephen Dice said the large, fenced in section of land is separated into two parts to separate big dogs from smaller ones.
“It’s a really great thing,” he said. “There are water bowls set out for the dogs, and we’re continuing to talk about the phases we want to add to it.”
Dice said a few projects include the building of a shelter house and the “Wilds” area, complete with bushy, tall grass and a pond.
“We continue to develop and use what we have available to us,” he said. “The fence boards for the dog park came from dead ash trees. We’re reusing materials and recycling what we can.”
Participants in the hiking program talked, laughed and socialized to the music of Skunk Cabbage, ate hot dogs, volunteered with children’s activities and watched area greyhounds perform in Lure Coursing in which the dogs show off their speed by chasing a white plastic bag attached to a motorized wire.
Mickie Chavez, a volunteer for Northcoast Greyhound Connection, sat in the shade with Jack, a 3-year-old rescued hound.
“We came out here with the group today so he could find a potential owner,” she said stroking Jack’s brown and white coat. “He’s looking for a forever home.”
Jack patiently waited for his turn to test his speed by nuzzling his adoptive “mom.”
“They’re used to living in crates and running on the track,” she said. “We take them in and show them how to be a pet, introduce them to things. I’ll never forget the first time he saw his reflection in a mirror. Once they’re trained though, they’re pets forever. They don’t want to run again for nothing. They’re like 43 miles per hour coach potatoes.”
Dice said getting people and even animals out and around each other can bring nothing but positive results.
“Staying in shape is important,” he said. “For everyone. Being healthy is important. It helps if there’s social interaction and you’re in a low stress environment.”
By the close of the day, there was a whole lot of tail wagging going on, particularly by Martie, a 6-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever.
Marilynn Satskie of Willard said Martie was having so much fun playing with the other dogs and being petted by those passing by, she had to plead with him to walk back to the car.
“He’s stubborn, especially when he’s getting a whole lot of attention,” she said. “It’s nice to know I can bring him here and let him play while I work out or run an errand.”
Registration per dog is $15 annually for Erie County residents and $20 annually for those outside the area.
One-day permits are available at $5 for county residents and $8 for others.
Registration fees will go toward the upkeep and maintenance of the park.
Dice said upon registration, dog owners must provide shots records proving the dog has received all necessary vaccinations for, but not limited to rabies, distemper and parvovirus. Owners also must prove they’ve purchased a dog license.
Information and registration forms may be found at eriemetroparks.org.