After more than 12 years of delays, fundraising, seeking approvals, and construction, Oakland's first dog park is almost ready to open! There are three key things to be aware of as the dog park is less than a month away from opening:
The Dog Park Fundraising Subcommittee, which falls underneath the Borough of Oakland's Great Oak Park Committee, is announcing three fundraisers which will take place in December 2020 through February 2021.
“While we have enough funds at this time to finish constructing the dog park, we have trimmed down the budget in order to ensure we have at least a functioning dog park open and ready for the public to enjoy in the Spring of 2021 after what will be 12 years of prayer, patience, and perseverance,” said Dog Park Subcommittee Chairman Ryan Schwertfeger. “Raising additional funds will provide for additional plants, dog park play obstacles, and benches on the dog park site to make the experience more enjoyable for all.”
To raise the additional funds needed, a Restaurant Night has been agreed to with the well-known and well-liked Oakland eatery, the Oakland Diner. For those dining in and taking out (no deliveries) on Monday, December 21, 2020, 20% of the sales from that day will go towards the dog park efforts. The subcommittee encourages everyone to participate in this fundraiser as it not only benefits the dog park, but it supports local restaurants which is so important during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The subcommittee is also working on launching an online apparel sale where supporters can buy various items with the dog park logo and Oakland dog park branding. The online store and the printing of the items will be done by an Oakland resident who runs the company Mac’s Custom Apparel. The profits from the sale, which will take place online at a time to be announced in the near future, also will go towards the dog park efforts.
Wyckoff chocolate store Chocolate Etc. is also sponsoring a Dog Park Day on Saturday, February 6, 2021. Those that make a purchase at their store and mention the Oakland Dog Park at checkout will receive 10% off your purchase and the dog park will receive 10% of the sales at the store that day. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, getting something for a special someone can benefit a FLOW area business, the dog park, and make for a yummy Valentine’s Day gift.
The Dog Park Subcommittee is also looking to hold a silent auction in early 2021 on their Facebook page as they want to auction off remaining items from previous silent auctions and tricky tray events that did not sell. Supporters are asked to keep watch on the Dog Park’s social media pages for more information.
“We look forward to teaming up with local businesses during this tough time as we hope it's a win/win for everyone,” said Dog Park Subcommittee Event Coordinator Josephine Kukla. “We're also looking for volunteers to help with planting plants in the spring and possibly look at holding one more large fundraiser in 2021 - COVID permitting.”
The Dog Park is planning on opening to the public on or close to Mother's Day 2021.
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
(c) 2021 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.