By James Niedzinski
---- — Three years in the works, and born out of two women’s efforts to help Gloucester’s and Cape Ann’s canine population, the new Gloucester Dog Park at Stage Fort Park is ready to welcome its first users.
First addressed in 2010, the Gloucester Dog Park is now due for its leash cutting ceremony, Saturday at 10 a.m., with tails no doubt wagging in happy anticipation.
The new facility stretches across two acres at Stage Fort Park just off the basketball courts.
”It was all weeds, debris, cleaned it all up, now it’s going to be a gem of the city, that’s for sure,” said Mary Lou Maraganis, who founded the Friends of the Gloucester Dog Park with Judi Masciarelli.
Maraganis said she first got the inspiration for the idea after adopting a terrier mix named Valentino.
”Those who knew him well called him Tino,” she said.
Maraganis explained some shelters can mislabel dogs as not adoptable, which can adversely affect their personality and behavior.
“The shelter system misunderstood him,” she said.
That’s what also prompted Maraganis to help start Animal Rescue Konnection. The animal rescue operation, which is currently in the process of getting its nonprofit status, serves as a bridge between dog owners, shelters and animal control officers. The soon-to-be-nonprofit was started in May of last year and has aided more than 150 dogs.
Animal Rescue Konnection also arranges swamps with dogs between shelters, making sure they get the best fit.
Tino learned to run, play and socialize properly, and in that spirit, a section of the park will be dubbed Tino’s corner.
Here, owners can have one-on-one time with the dogs, who might not yet be ready to venture out to play with others
The park will also have a special section for larger dogs and another for smaller canines.
The City Council agreed to set aside the land at Stage Fort Park in 2011, and private donations needed to complete it have been steadily flowing in.
The Boston-based Dusky Foundation — whose grantees also include Gloucester’s Schooner Adventure, the Child Development Programs of Cape Ann, and giants such as Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary — has pledged $100,000 with matching funds toward the new dog park in 2011.
Maraganis stressed the park’s completion was a community effort, from town officials to volunteers. Other members of the Friends of the Gloucester Dog Park include Bethany MacNicholl, Kelly Brancaleone, Nicki Bach, Louise Grindrod, Marie Demick and Tom Schauer.
“I think the dogs are just going to love it,” Grindrod said.
She added the process from start to finish was no easy trick.
“It’s been a long hard struggle,” she said. “Cape Ann Animal Aid and the dog park are going to work beautifully together.”
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.