Randy Boyd visit starts ball rolling for Erwin dog park

Sue Guinn Legg • Aug 22, 2018 at 11:31 PM

ERWIN — Randy Boyd and his wife Jenny presented Erwin leaders with a $25,000 Dog Park Dash grant Wednesday, and paused to explain the purpose of the statewide grant program and to hear a little about plans for development of Erwin’s first dog park.

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley welcomed the Boyds to what she said was “a monumental occasion” for the town, a ceremonial launch of a dog park tentatively planned for development on a town-owned tract of 4.8 wooded acres next to the Erwin Linear Trail near the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

“We think it will be a great addition to our trail and to those who have their dogs down there, for them to able to get off their leashes and get some water,” she said.

Hensley said while the town has discussed the a dog park for several years, budget constraints have always pushed it off the table. She thanked the Boyd Foundation for the funding that will allow plans to move forward, and Randy Boyd in particular, saying, “Without him, I don’t know when we could have accomplished this.”

Boyd in turn congratulated Erwin for its selection in the competitive grant program intended to make Tennessee a more dog-friendly state.

He said the Dog Park Dash grant awards to cities selected in this first year of the three-year grant initiative were based on both the quality of the recipients’ applications and the engagement of their communities. “Erwin had a great plan and I believe there were about 15 names on the list of people who were involved,” he said

Boyd said said the dog park initiative was born when, as owner of the Knoxville-based Radio Systems Corporation doing business as PetSafe, he was in Arizona for a customer’s charity event and learned Tennessee was among the least dog-friendly states in the country.

Upon his return, Boyd said he set out “to make Knoxville the most dog-friendly place in America” and started with a dog park that turned out to be a smash hit “not just for dogs, but for people.”

“Dog parks are great places for people to gather,” he said. “There is so much division in our country now, we need things that bring people together. Dog parks do that. Rich, poor, young, old, and I have even seen Republicans and Democrats sitting on the same bench.”

Boyd said the foundation launched a national Bark for Your Park grant initiative in which about 1,000 cities across the country participated before creating the Dog Park Dash exclusively for Tennessee. When complete, he said, Dog Park Dash will have awarded $25,000 grants for dog parks in 36 Tennessee communities each year for three years and one $100,000 grand prize grant award to create more than 100 dog parks across the state.

Hensley said planning for the Erwin dog park will begin this month and the project completed within the current budget year. In addition to the town-owned property along the linear trail, she said a portion of Fishery Park is being repurposed and would also be suitable for a dog park or “a second dog park, after we see how the first one goes.”

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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