WAILUA — Marianne Luken has lived in Wailua Homesteads for nearly 16 years and has seen the neighborhood around her change.
But one thing that hasn’t changed, Luken said, is the need for a neighborhood dog park that would allow Lani, her 9-year-old rescue dog, and Kahoa, her neighbor’s Golden Retriever, to socialize with other dogs in the area.
“Neither of these dogs are well socialized and they’ve been great here with these other dogs,” Luken said during a recent gathering of about 30 Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association members and their dogs on Thursday. “Usually they start snapping at other dogs, so I can see how having a lot of other dogs who are socialized is really good for them.”
But that need, Luken said, will be fulfilled over the next few months as Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association members and volunteers break ground on a county-backed dog park in Wailua Homesteads Park.
Many neighborhood organizers say it is a milestone that culminates nearly three years of planning and persistence.
“It’s been three long years, so here’s three big cheers,” Dog park organizer Donna Pickard shouted as dog owners at the neighborhood gathering raised their clear plastic cups of apple cider for a toast.
The fenced dog park, under current plans, will be in a now vacant 1.5-acre section of Wailua Homesteads Park adjacent to the pavilion, playground and tennis court areas.
The dog use area will also include double-gated entrances for a separated one-acre play area for large dogs and a half-acre section for small dogs under 30 pounds.
Pickard said the availability of other park amenities, such as benches, landscaping, and shade areas, will depend on future monetary or volunteer contributions.
Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association Chair Rayne Regush said the initial resolution to establish county-backed dog parks on the island was approved by the Kauai County Council in September 2008.
Discussions to create a dog park in Wailua, however, began in early 2010, when the council was considering a bill that would allow leashed dogs on Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the multi-use path spanning from Lydgate Park to Coconut MarketPlace and Lihi Park to Kuna Bay.
Regush said the county, at that time, had already evaluated several county parks and decided that Wailua Homesteads Park was one of the best sites for a dog park.
To drum up more support for the project, Regush said the neighborhood association combined its efforts with an independent group of residents who were working with Department of Parks and Recreation officials to create an off-leash dog area within a portion of Wailua Homesteads Park.
Efforts to get the project off the ground, however, stalled after Department of Parks and Recreation staff members hosted an informal meeting in March 2011 to gather input and address concerns from neighborhood residents.
“Every year, the county is faced with very difficult budget choices and decision makers are always juggling priorities,” Regush said. “Nevertheless, the commitment for this community-county partnership didn’t waiver despite the delays.”
In May, Department of Parks and Recreation Director Leonard Rapozo, Jr. said the county awarded a $35,000 grant for dog park building supplies to Lihue-based nonprofit Malama Pono Health Services, which serves as the designated fiscal sponsor between the county and the neighborhood association.
Former Malama Pono Health Services Director D.Q. Jackson said the decision to become a fiscal sponsor for the project was an easy one, especially since many of the organization’s staff members are dog owners.
“It’s an easy process for us, but it solves and addresses a problem that the community has a concern about for many, many years,” Jackson said in a phone interview last month. “We’re glad we had the opportunity.”
The dog park, when completed, will be second one on the South Shore and third one of its kind on the island.
The only public dog park on Kauai is Freddie’s Dog Park at the Kauai Humane Society in Puhi.
A blessing and ground-breaking ceremony for a second dog park, the North Shore Dog Park, took place about a week ago in Kilauea, but North Shore Community Foundation spokeswoman Maylette Garces said a specific opening date has not been set as of Saturday.
Ellen Carscadden, owner of Akamai Pet Services in Kapaa, said the completion of the Wailua Homesteads dog park is important because it provides a social outlet and exercise for dogs and their owners.
“Dogs overall are social creatures and they enjoy being around other dogs,” Carscadeen said. “A tired dog is like a tired child. If you can get a dog worn out, all of the problems that people complain about, such as digging, barking, or running away, will be eliminated.”
For other residents, the completion of the dog park means more.
Pickard and her husband David said their two dogs, Jinx and Bailey, died while plans for the park were being completed.
“Our passion to have and help with the dog use area in Wailua came from our love of quality family time,” Pickard said. “The friends we have made, socializing our dogs and keeping us active as a couple found to be priceless. We miss our dogs but our love of animals will always keep us connected to the cause.”
For more information, contact Pickard at 651-4743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.