It was hard to say who was more excited about the reopening of the Wags-A-Hachie dog park on Saturday morning, the dogs or their owners.
Dogs of all sizes enjoyed the upgrade to the park, which includes a larger and improved play area fresh with thick green grass.
Some dogs tried their “paw” on the newly installed agility courses while others simply enjoyed meeting new friends.
Dog owners were just happy the opportunity was there.
“My dog is deaf, so this gives him a chance to run free and meet everyone,” said resident Misti Webb, who adopted Silas earlier in the week and adopted another dog, Tobias, on Friday.
After about six months of renovations, the city celebrated the reopening of the dog park, located at 701 Howard Road, with a ceremony that coincided with the first weekend of the farmers market, located a few meters away.
Improvements include a new agility area/play equipment, improved fencing, shaded picnic areas, benches and picnic tables, garbage cans, and a mural painted by Calina Mishay that incorporates the park dog run, farmers market and butterfly garden.
There is also a 53-space concrete parking lot with lighting and ADA sidewalk connections to the walking and biking trail and the farmers market.
“I love green spaces,” said resident Jonathan Collins. “Love the walkaround and easy access to the farmers market. Southern Waxahachie was missing something like that so good to have.
In fact, city leaders — many of whom brought their dogs — said this project was more than just a dog park.
“What I’m most proud of is the transformation that has taken place,” said Gumaro Martinez, executive director of parks and recreation services. “The links between the trail, the dog park and the farmer’s market. In the past they were all separate, but now it’s a pedestrian zone. You can go to the farmers market, walk the trail and enjoy your time at the dog park.”
Plans for upgrades were not taken lightly. Waxahachie Community Development Corporation board member Dave McSpadden said several residents had spoken about updating the dog park, but he said former councilor Mary Lou Shipley was a driving force behind the project. .
“Over many years it got to the point where it didn’t compete with other city parks,” McSpadden said. “So we on the board decided what we needed to do was improve on that and do it at a high level so that people who come here get their impression of Waxahachie.”
Martinez said it was just the latest effort to improve the southern part of the city.
“It’s a southern extension of downtown,” Martinez said. “It started with Railyard Park, and now the Farmers’ Market is here. We had the track, but not much going on there.
McSpadden said while the city explored ideas for how to improve the dog park, he spent several days at the facility talking with people about what they would like to see. McSpadden said she met someone who said she likes to come to the dog park but doesn’t like to come at night.
“That gave the idea of solar lighting,” McSpadden said.
He noted the much improved agility course.
“Our agility course before that was an 18-wheeler laying flat on the ground,” McSpadden said. “That was it. We had old broken wooden benches. Now we have these standard city park benches. City staff are going to come here and make sure this is used with pride.
Even the old cistern, which was originally in the small dog section of the dog park, has been revamped and now serves as a canvas for the mural to welcome guests.
He said the concrete added to the dog park was just as important as anything else. He said concrete has been installed under the fences to reduce lawn maintenance and to ensure dogs don’t dig holes under the fences. And the expanded parking lot will allow more people to enter the park.
“We now have a new 43,000 square foot parking lot near the restrooms that was rarely used because it was in the middle of the hiking and biking trail, and no one knew about it,” he said. “So more than half of our budget was spent on concrete here.”
He said the final product is an evolution of an idea that started a long time ago.
“When you look at it from the 30,000 foot view, it’s a huge improvement for this part of Waxahachie,” McSpadden said, adding that the parking lot will also be used for the rodeo and rope arena. “So the spinoff from the original concept of a dog park has become something much more wonderful for the city than we initially thought. And it all happened because of the collaboration between our Board of Directors and the leaders of the Parks and Recreation Department.