After seven years of efforts, including letter-writing campaigns to Maui County officials, advocating for ordinance changes to allow for off-leash areas, helping to draft dog park rules, testifying at Maui County budget committee meetings, marching in Makawao's Fourth of July Paniolo Parade with "invisible dogs" in tow, and holding countless organization meeting, the Upcountry Dog Park (UDP) Committee has been notified that funding has been allocated from the county.
The park is on target to open to the public in late summer or early fall.
"Things are rolling along at the dog park and looking good!" said Liz Suter, vice president of the Upcountry Dog Park Committee.
This Google aerial map shows the Upcountry Dog Park area adjacent to the Eddie Tam playing fields, behind the recycling center in back of Kalama School and the approximate perimeter for fencing that will be installed by Maui County.
According to the American Kennel Club, dog parks not only provide a safe venue for dogs to exercise safely, they also prevent off-leash animals from infringing on the rights of others in the community while making it easier for the local government to enforce its leash laws. Dog owners with park access have no reason to allow their canine companions off-leash when outside of the park.
"It's a win-win situation for the entire community," said UDP President Pam Shingaki, a driving force behind the development of this park since the beginning.
The group is now focusing on the work that needs to be completed before the park can open.
The initiative to develop the park required a partnership between the county and the community.
"Although the county has provided funds and heavy equipment, the community will need to do its part to make the park happen," said Suter.
The county Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Public Works are in the process of clearing several acres of unused county land adjacent to the Eddie Tam playing fields, behind the recycling center in back of Kalama School.
Community volunteer efforts have also begun.
"Our volunteer with the backhoe, Jason Dagenhardt, spends almost all his free time there," said Shingaki. "His efforts are very appreciated."
But more work needs to be completed, and more volunteers are needed to prune, rake, remove trash and weeds, and help grade the area.
"We also need volunteers for correspondence, fundraising and computer tasks," said Suter. "And of course, we need financial donations."
Although the county budgeted for fencing, gates and major earthmoving, donations are needed for operating the backhoe, and for benches, signs, landscaping plants, mulch and other items.
"With more volunteers and donations, we can do it," said Suter.
UDP's next workday is Saturday, May 18. Dog-lovers should contact Suter at 281-5385 or email UpcountryDogsMaui@gmail.com to volunteer.
The group will also hold an important public informational meeting on Sunday, May 26, at 1 p.m. at the dog park site below the recycling center.
For more information, visit wwwUpcountryDogPark.com.
(An application for nonprofit status has been filed with the IRS.)