It took 11 years and 2 months, but the dog park I’ve long proposed for Oakland has finally been approved by the Oakland Borough Council! A voice vote of approval was given on May 13th and a formal written resolution is on the council’s agenda for May 27th.
Since we started fundraising in 2016, We’ve raised over $37,000 in cash donations and approximately $48,000 in pledged or donated labor and materials. As with everything in Great Oak Park, it is an amazing accomplishment to say that none of the park’s development has required the Oakland taxpayer to spend a dime.
Over the coming months, I will of course keep you abreast of site developments and progress. Some progress may seem a bit slow, but keep in mind that some the labor and materials are being donated and contractors and donations will come in and be done when possible. I think it is very safe to say at this point that the dog park should be done before the end of the year, but an exact date to say it will be done or when it would open to the public obviously depends on when the Great Oak Park Committee will have completed the entry driveway and parking lot repaving and what the limitations are on public gatherings in the midst of this COVID-19 epidemic.
At this current time, the dog park committee is officially wrapping up the majority of our fundraising as we have enough funds to proceed with construction. If additional funds remain in our account at the end of construction, we will use it to purchase benches, amenities, additional plants, etc. for the dog park. To that end, we also plan to keep our donation boxes out in public until the dog park is complete so that those donated funds can also be spent towards park improvements. It is not confirmed, but it is also possible that one last fundraising event will be held at the end of the year or in early 2021 to purchase additional dog park amenities.
We are also encouraging any dog park supporters who have considered donating but have not done so at this point, and to those who wanted to donate more but was waiting for council approval before donating, to please donate as soon as possible. We will be transferring our funds from the Sports Association of Oakland (the 501c3 organization that has graciously acted as our bank for fundraising efforts) to the Borough at a time in the very near future and we would like to ensure that as much of our funds as possible are transferred over in one shot instead of receiving last minute donations in a slow drip process. To donate, go to the dog park website at www.dogpark4oaklandnj.org/donate and follow the instructions to properly mail in a check.
I thank everyone for their support and I’m living proof that with prayer, patience, and perseverance, anything is possible!
Talk about time flying by! It was hard to believe that it has been about a year and a half since my last formal dog park update in this Note/Blog format, but much has continued going on behind the scenes and light is starting to be seen at the end of the tunnel. I’d like to provide an update about the latest progress and answer the same, most commonly asked questions I’ve heard when talking about the dog park. So, here’s the latest in another question and answer formatted post.
Q: How much money have you raised so far?
A: The latest figures I have is that we have approximately $34,000 in cash donations and about $29,000 in pledged donations for grand total of $63,000 raised for the dog park effort! That means we are two thirds of the way to our grand total and we are working very hard right now to close that gap. We are still making money from the few magnets left available at both Oakland pet stores, from the many gracious donors who put money in our donation boxes in stores like J-B Pet Supplies, Ramapo Valley Animal Hospital, Oakland Animal Hospital, Oakland Hardware, and Pet Supplies Plus, and from those who decide to donate online via PayPal or send in donations via check to our P.O. Box. A sincere thank you to everyone who has donated, and I love getting the emails that say the donation boxes are full!
Q: So, how will you raise the rest? What events are upcoming?
A: Besides continuing the initiatives just mentioned, continuing our recent push to reach out to local businesses and industries, and applying for several grants from local banks and larger companies in the area, we will have two decent fundraisers to finish off the year.
But first: I just announced, after seeing what our friends at the Glen Rock Dog Park did, that the Oakland Dog Park is now able to be a recipient of contributions made at your local Stop & Shop supermarket. All you have to do is purchase the specifically marked reusable bag for purchase at check out (which costs a little over $2 each), scratch off the code on the bag’s tag, enter it on their special online website, and then select that you want it to go to the Oakland Dog Park. For every bag sold and to those who claim that they want their donation to come to us in the seven days since purchase, we receive $1. We won’t make a lot off of this effort for sure, but it’s a great way to go green and support the dog park efforts at the same time! Every little bit makes a difference!
We are about to launch what I’ve learned is called a Super 50/50 Raffle. The raffle will officially start any day now once the tickets are printed and are available in our two physical locations – Pet Supplies Plus and Chopper Russo’s RE/MAX office both in Oakland. The raffle will last until the end of November and the drawing will occur in early December. Tickets will be sold for $100 but only 200 tickets will be available to be sold. So, if you purchase just one ticket and all 200 tickets sell, you have a 1 in 200 chance to win $10,000. By comparison, if you play New Jersey Lottery’s Cash 5, you only have a 1 in 962,598 in winning their jackpot. Not too shabby!
We also are likely going to be announcing a raffle or raffles featuring some football merchandise by the end of the year that we think many of you will love to participate in. It will be priced very fairly, and our hope is that many more people will want to participate in that raffle/s, especially since it appeals to people in many different towns besides our immediate area! Our hope is that if all goes well, these raffles can help us significantly close the gap by the end of this year.
Lastly, we are in talks with a few businesses and individuals who could potentially make a decent contribution to us and if so, would push us to a point where our fundraising would be almost completed or completed entirely. Knowing this, your participation in our upcoming fundraisers is crucial to close the gap we have left and make it possible to finally finish our fundraising once and for all. Even if raffles aren’t your thing, your online or mailed check donation would mean so much at this present time.
Q: Why haven’t you had any large-scale fundraisers up until this point, like a tricky tray? Have you thought of doing x, y, or z?
A: Fundraisers that we had thought of for the park and some that people have proposed to me for the park – for example, a pet cemetery or paving stone walkway – are not going to be feasible because of the rules and regulations about the property. Similarly, since we are working closely with the Sports Association of Oakland, NJ as our charity arm for our fundraising efforts, fundraising activities need to be approved by them since their name and organization is involved. There have been some fundraisers we’ve wanted to do that the SAO has not approved us to do and so our Dog Park Fundraising Subcommittee has been working hard to propose, plan, and execute fundraisers that we are able to do and that the SAO is okay with us doing.
A tricky tray was an event we were originally planning on doing before the end of this year, but we ran out of time to do so and we did not have enough volunteers willing to help. If you would be willing to help do an event like a tricky tray, please send us an email.
Q: Have you applied for grants?
A: We had tried applying for grants from PetSafe, area banks, PSE&G, and did try reaching out to Rockland Electric to no success. I had also reached out to someone from our Congressman’s office to see if any federal grants are out there that would apply, and I was last told they are supposedly keeping an eye out for me. We were awarded a several hundred-dollar grant from the Riverdale Walmart store a few months back and those funds will help go towards paying for some new trees on the dog park site.
We have recently applied and reapplied for some grants from local banks and a few larger companies and am waiting to hear back. Many pet food companies do have charitable arms, but they give only to extremely specific causes and not towards dog parks. However, our committee is working on seeing if we can reach some people associated with these large mega pet companies to ask for a donation.
Q: Remind me again why the dog park needs to raise that much?
A: It is most helpful if you are able to see the site yourself, so I encourage you to visit in person or check out photos on our website to see what we are working with. Many of you who ask me this question have admitted that you have not visited Great Oak Park yet, so I highly encourage you to go, see the proposed dog park site for yourself to help put it in perspective, and to enjoy this beautiful park that volunteers have helped to bring about in Oakland!
A key point that is crucial to understand is that the proposed location of the dog park is in an environmentally sensitive park, the Great Oak Park. Working with the Great Oak Park Committee and Shade Tree Committee especially, we have taken steps to ensure almost every plant we will put in is a native species plant, that we will be using engineered wood fiber as our dog park base because it is more environmentally friendly, we will be installing both dog trash, regular trash, and recycling cans on site, and we will be taking formerly impervious surfaces and making them pervious again which will allow water to flow into the ground which it cannot do right now. To do the right thing, sometimes it will have to cost a bit more, but I am committed to constructing the best dog park possible for all of Oakland to benefit from and to be an amazing asset in a brand new park all Oakland residents should be proud of.
Now if you’ve visited the proposed dog park site (our sign is at the proposed location – near where the proposed Great Lawn and the office building between the two Portobello’s Restaurant locations meet), you may have seen the unique aspects of the area we’ve been given to work with. To sum up the major work that needs to be done:
Q: There’s a big election this year in Oakland. Is there a certain candidate we should vote for who will support the dog park?
A: Since starting this project, I feel very strongly that this is not a political issue. A dog park is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. I’ve always stated the facts when asked as to who has supported, who has been lukewarm, and who has not supported the dog park efforts regardless of party affiliation. I am proud to say that I feel extremely confident that every current member of the governing body in Oakland is supportive of the dog park proposal and I have heard from many of them that they are amazed regarding the support received for this project. The last time the dog park was voted on in any way, which was earlier this year, every single member of the Council voted yes and I do not expect that to change.
I am not going to endorse any candidate running for Mayor or Council, but instead, I would highly recommend that if a candidate comes to your door asking for your vote, you let Mr. or Mrs. Candidate know that you support the efforts to bring a dog park to town and ask them how they feel about the issue. A former council member expressed to me that when running a few years back, they were amazed how many people asked about the dog park when going from door to door and that it made an impression that the dog park was really something desired in this community. I would love to hear a similar response this year from the candidates running that residents they met were desiring a dog park in town as that only helps our efforts.
Q: When could a dog park feasibly open in Oakland at the Great Oak Park?
A: This is the million dollar, or should I say, hundred thousand dollar, question everyone wants to know. Once we received word back from NJ that we could proceed and the Oakland Borough Council approved our tentative plan and gave us the blessing to go forth and get larger donations earlier this year (they passed a commitment to approve the dog park if the funds needed were raised), we have been hard at work planning fundraising activities and reaching out to different people and companies seeking donations. Our goal is to have all of the funds raised by the end of this year, which may or may not happen, though we feel fairly confident that we can either have all or almost all of the funds raised by then. If not have the total we need, we do not anticipate going much longer into 2020 to raise whatever is left and still be on schedule.
Once all of the funds are raised, the next step is to finalize our proposed concept drawing which was generously donated (and is being constantly updated) by Borst Landscaping. After receiving the input and approval of the Great Oak Park Committee, the Borough Council in Oakland will then need to approve the final project plan. Once their final approval is given, we can finally proceed to construct the dog park. If all goes well and without major delays, the committee is aiming to see the dog park (officially and/or ceremonially) open at some point between Mother’s Day and before back-to-school time in 2020.
So please be sure to participate in our upcoming raffles and consider making a year-end donation to the dog park to finally help bring this ten-and-a-half-year project finally to a close.
Dog Park for Oakland, NJ Founder
It has been about a year since my last update like in this format, but many different things have been going on behind the scenes and yes, much waiting has occurred as well. I’d like to provide an update about the latest progress and answer some of the questions I’ve heard from some of you since the last update. So here’s the latest in another question and answer formatted post.
Q: How much money have you raised so far?
A: We had our first two larger scale events in the fall - Dessert for Dog Park Dollars which made a little under $1,000 and our first annual craft show which netted about $2,000. We have also been fortunate and thankful to receive some donations from local organizations such as the Oakland Mother’s Club and from individuals in and around town. We continue to sell our dog park supporter magnets with the circle magnets pretty much sold out and some rectangular magnets still for sale at the two pet stores in town ($5 each if you’d still like to get one) - and may I say, thank you to everyone that has bought a magnet as it is such an emotional and motivational boost to be driving around town and see magnets on cars from all of you who support these efforts.
We are still collecting donations in boxes around town, myself and members of our Dog Park Fundraising Committee (subcommittee of the Great Oak Park Committee in Oakland) have attended a few events to get the word out and ask for donations, and we still get some donations being mailed in and electronically delivered via PayPal. The combined “fundraised” dollars (which is actual dollars in the bank = approx $24,000) PLUS savings that will be realized when work is done (as several businesses have committed to providing a discount for work they can do for the dog park efforts = valued at about $27,000) is now at about $51,000.
Q: So, how will you raise the rest? What events are upcoming? How can I help?
A: For the remainder of 2018 and into 2019, the committee is looking to hold a variety of small to mid-scale sized fundraising events - currently, we are exploring the potential to do restaurant nights, another craft show, and potentially a blackjack/casino night and/or an indoor simulated golf outing. We are looking for people who would be interested in volunteering and/or connecting us to the right people to make these events a reality and a success. If you think you can help, email me.
One thing I am still hoping for is to hear from any residents who would like to host a private fundraiser to support the dog park efforts. If that’s something that interests you to do, please reach out to me and I can assist in getting the word out and helping to organize. I also know a few people have offered to give proceeds of a garage sale or private small-scale event to the dog park efforts and that too is greatly appreciated and I thank you. However, because I cannot 100% guarantee that someone’s intent to donate x portion of a sale to the dog park will then occur, and I do not want to mislead any of you to go shop and support something that is not an official Dog Park for Oakland, NJ event, I won’t be able to share or post your event. However, if you, on your own, decide to hold an event and send in a check with your proceeds as a donation, that would be greatly appreciated. Reach out to me if that is the case and myself and our committee Treasurer will assist you in that process.
Q: Why haven’t you had any large scale fundraisers, like a tricky tray? Couldn’t you just do that, raise a lot of funds, and have the money and finally build this park?
A: A key point that is crucial to understand as to why this has been going so slowly is the fact that the Great Oak Park Committee, Oakland Borough, the Oakland Borough Engineer, and the NJDEP are involved in this process. The Park Committee has several goals and tasks they need to accomplish, including raising money to redo the parking areas, that need to be met before we can open our dog park. I recommend you attend a Great Oak Park Committee meeting if you want to learn and ask about the latest. I attend almost every meeting and not many members of the public come.
Oakland Borough is involved because the park is on their property and they’ll need to give approvals for dog park to be built. The Borough Engineer is involved because it is Borough property, but mainly because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the property. To summarize their role down very very simply, they needed to spend time writing and submitting a “Letter of Interpretation” (LOI) to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and once the NJDEP reviews the submission (about 9 months of time needed to wait from when it was sent), they will declare whether we will be allowed to build the dog park on the property. As far as I am aware, the LOI is almost done/has been sent in, so the waiting game clock should soon start.
The Great Oak Park Committee and the Dog Park Fundraising Committee do not think it would be wise to hold large scale fundraisers if we do not have that formal approval from NJDEP. However, by holding smaller fundraisers, we can continue to raise money to get closer to our end goal so that when we do get the approvals we need, we will hopefully be at a point where one or two large fundraisers could easily bring us to our end fundraising goal. When we are ready to hold a tricky tray or other large scale fundraiser - believe me - you’ll know.
Q: Have you applied for any other grants?
A: Besides the PetSafe grant last year, we did try applying for other grants from area banks, PSE&G, and did try reaching out to Rockland Electric to no success. I also reached out to someone from our Congressman’s office to see if any federal grants are out there that would apply and I was last told they are supposedly keeping an eye out for me. As the Great Oak Park Committee has been using Bergen County Park Grants for the band shell and the parking areas, we have not put in any applications to compete with those; however, if funds are still needed next year, I would talk with the Dog Park Committee and the Great Oak Park Committee about putting in an application for that purpose.
Besides the NJDEP situation as I detailed in the last Q&A above, the big other reason has been that we needed a professional concept drawing to be done. Thankfully, Borst Landscape & Design stepped up and offered to do both a professional colored landscape concept drawing and also a more technical drawing for us that we can use to show you, the public, officials, and grant giving organizations what we intend this dog park to look like and operate. To do that, we will almost certainly need information that is featured in the LOI report, so the hope is once that is sent and we retain access to that information, we can provide that to Borst to start work on a concept drawing. Our hope is that by the fall of this year, we can show you a finished and professional dog park concept design.
Q: Remind me again why the dog park needs to raise that much?
A: If you’ve visited the proposed dog park site (the concrete slabs by the proposed Great Lawn that was formerly the Muller’s Park Barn - NOT where the coming soon sign is presently located), you may have seen the unique aspects of the area we’ve been given to work with. To sum up:
Q: Lastly, when could a dog park feasibly open in Oakland at the Great Oak Park?
A: Due to the delay in the LOI being sent out and our slow start to 2018 given some other matters we needed to handle first, it appears at the absolute, absolute earliest that we’d be looking at the end of next year - if - a vast majority of things on the governmental side of the equation go smoothly from here on out and we raise the funds we need. In addition, the Park Committee still needs to raise the funds to redo the roadway in and out and create a new parking area for people wishing to use the park amenities on that side of Great Oak Park. I believe the Park Committee is working on that now. Let me assure you though: I am not letting up, I am not giving up, and it should be very clearly known by all that a delay in this long road is not going to stop me and stop us from getting a dog park in town.
Please be sure to tell your friends, family, neighbors and fellow dog owners about the dog park website: www.dogpark4oaklandnj.org and to please contact me if you would like to help in any way. As always, thank you all again for your interest, prayers, and emotional and financial support.
Dog Park for Oakland, NJ Founder
In late February, the informally formed Dog Park Fundraising Committee formally established a set of bylaws. The committee is set up as a subcommittee of Oakland Borough's Great Oak Park Committee and sends a liaison to attend the Dog Park meetings. The Sports Association of Oakland (SAO), a registered 501 c3 charity within the Borough will act as the bank for fundraising efforts and the Treasurer of the Dog Park committee will work closely with the SAO on this front. The new committee will meet on average once a month at the Oakland Public Library. Meeting dates, times, and locations will be posted on the Dog Park for Oakland, NJ Facebook page in the short term until a Secretary is chosen who will work with the Borough on formally announcing meeting information.
Ryan Schwertfeger, the founder and person who started the Dog Park for Oakland, NJ movement will serve as Chairman of the new committee. Lauren Binder will serve as Event Coordinator. Charlie Delman will serve as Treasurer. There is no selection of a Secretary yet. Other members that are on the newly formed committee thus far include Brian Kresge, Gregg DePhillips, Thomas "Chopper" Russo, Grace Nappi, Josephine Kukla, and Lisa Fomchenko.
Two subcommittees were also established to start planning events in the short and long term that the committee wishes to undertake. A Tricky Tray Subcommittee was formed which will be chaired by Grace Nappi with Lauren Binder and Josephine Kukla serving as other members. A Craft Show Subcommittee was also formed chaired by Lauren Binder with Grace Nappi and Josephine Kukla serving as other members. If you are interested in serving on a subcommittee that has been formed, or have other ideas about events and subcommittees that can be formed, please contact Ryan at email@example.com.
(c) 2020 Dog Park for Oakland, NJ
Founder, project leader and Oakland dog park advocate since March 2009. Now a college graduate wanting to complete his 8th grade project from Valley Middle School for the humans and dogs of his community.