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.
The Dog Park for Oakland, NJ Fundraising Committee proudly announces our next fundraising effort to go towards the construction of a dog park in Oakland.
On November 12, 2017 from 10am to 4pm, a craft show will be held at the Oakland Knights of Columbus building on 7 Courthouse Place in Oakland, NJ which will feature local crafters and vendors selling their goodies, wares, and products just in time for holiday shopping as the end of the calendar year quickly approaches.
"To be perfectly frank, while I greatly admire the time put in and the work ethic of these crafters and artisans, I am not an expert when it comes to this field," says Dog Park for Oakland, NJ movement founder and leader Ryan Schwertfeger. "However, I am grateful to have daughter of fundraising committee member Charlie Delman, Mrs. Lauren Binder, on board and organizing this event. This was her idea and I gladly agreed to pursue this fundraising venture. I am excited to try a new route and reach out to a different demographic to not just increase awareness of the efforts and raise additional funds for the dog park, all while providing access to local citizens to these high quality vendors for the upcoming holidays."
"I decided to get involved with the dog park project because it is something that I feel will benefit everyone in the community," said Lauren Binder. "I have brought my dogs to the dog park in Ridgewood before and it has helped them tremendously. Having a dog park in town will help give me the opportunity to socialize her more, and meet other dog lovers within my town."
Lauren has been involved with and has attended many craft shows before and she is looking forward to making this craft show event a success. "We have brought in a wide variety of direct sales vendors and crafters to provide a holiday shopping event for our community, and to help fund our dog park," said Binder. "Each of our vendors is excited to participate and is bringing a lot of exciting ideas for our show."
For those interested in becoming a vendor for the craft show, please contact Lauren Binder at firstname.lastname@example.org before November 5th as you will need to reserve a spot and sign a contract. Vendors will donate 10% of their sales made that day towards the fundraising efforts, with a minimum of $25, in addition to donating item/items worth at least $10 for a raffle to take place on site also to benefit the dog park fundraising efforts.
For those interested in coming as shoppers, there is no entrance fee to get in but a donation to the dog park efforts is strongly suggested. In addition, Dog Park for Oakland supporter magnets will also be available for purchase for $5 each. Members of the public can get updates about the event by checking the home page of the Dog Park for Oakland, NJ website at www.dogpark4oaklandnj.org and also by going on Facebook to the Dog Park for Oakland, NJ page and looking at the specific event post for the Craft Show. Shoppers can also email email@example.com if they have any other questions, comments, or inquiries.
Q: So how are the fundraising efforts going?
A: Fundraising efforts continue to go very well as we had our first large scale fundraiser: Dessert for Dog Park Dollars. Our total raised that was deposited in the bank was $952! It was also a delight to meet so many Oakland and area residents who came out to support the event and I thank you all for coming and for your donations towards the dog park.
We are still getting some smaller donations getting collected online, donations being mailed in, money being given through our scattered donation boxes around Oakland, and through the magnet fundraiser. The combined “fundraised” dollars (which is actual dollars in the bank: about $17,500) 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) is now a little over $25,000. So we're close to updating the bone chart, but not yet!
Some visual and behind the scenes work is still going on that is having a huge impact. Some local Boy Scouts and kids in need of community service hours started to remove some of the vines, garbage, and overgrowth in the dog park area earlier this month. I am waiting to hear back if they can continue their work before the cold of winter sets in. The dog park committee has also been active at work planning and brainstorming some fundraising events and reaching out to their contacts and connections to see who can help and contribute. On both the events and connections front, I hope to be able to share some additional news on this next month.
In addition, Mark Borst from Borst Landscaping has graciously offered to help do some architectural landscape drawing work for the proposed dog park so the public and potential donors can get an idea what it would look like. It will still be some time until that is seen (as some meetings and information gathering needs to occur before drawing work can begin) but that is coming down the pipe. I’m also still continually reaching out to a variety of businesses, individuals, and organizations to see who can help contribute towards this project and have talked with a few businesses and community groups of late to learn if and how they can help.
If you are interested in hosting a fundraiser for the dog park efforts, that is still more than welcome and I would greatly appreciate that kind of help and event to take place. Please reach out to me and I can assist in getting the word out and helping to organize. Small to mid-sized fundraisers that a local or nearby resident could host or co-host with somebody else is still something I think is very doable and could raise a good amount for the cause.
Q: How is it going on the grant work?
A: Sadly, we didn't win that PetSafe grant from a while back, but we are undeterred in looking for and applying for other grants. We are currently working on applying for several grants from local and area businesses, organizations and companies and we hope to have all of those submitted before the holidays. If you see any grant you think we could apply for or are part of any group that gives out grants that you think a dog park could be included on, please reach out and let me know.
Q: Can you remind me again why it is going to cost so much to build this dog park? Why do you need to raise $80,000-$100,000? What is costing that much?
A: So to repeat, the majority of the reasons why it costs so much is because we need to make sure we conform to Borough insurance requirements and remove previous elements of the site that cannot stay anymore. To re-highlight some of the higher expenses to further explain, these are some current figures I have:
Q: So you've been working on this for 8 and a half years. When could a dog park feasibly open in Oakland at the Great Oak Park?
A: If we continue to have several and successful fundraising events and decent sized donations, receive donations of labor, and we are able to secure a few grants as well, I think it is still fairly reasonable to say we could have all or almost all the funds needed by about this time next year. However, not getting continued donations or any grants would slow things down in regard to reaching the fundraising target. In addition, the Park Committee needs to also have funds raised to complete the complementary and necessary projects to open that area of the park, namely the roadway in and out and a parking area for people wishing to use the services on that side of the park. The Borough is going to ask for a 50/50 County grant to help pay for that cost, but of course, the other half of that will still need to be raised. Once all those funds (dog park and other related) are raised, formal Borough approval to begin construction would still be needed. THEN, when we get that, it would be just a matter of time as to when work could begin and when will work finish to determine when Oakland’s first dog park can be open to the public.
Please continue to tell your friends, family, neighbors and fellow dog owners about the dog park website: www.dogpark4oaklandnj.org as it has the latest news, some videos and images, a form to contact me, and the link in order to donate. A lot of support has come in through word of mouth or by people seeing news about the efforts on Facebook, on news websites, and in the Suburban News, so your help can make all the difference. And as always, thank you all again for your interest, prayers, and support. I have to admit its such a cool feeling to see the dog park magnets on cars around town knowing that you are all out there and proclaiming that you do want a dog park in this Borough.
Dog Park for Oakland, NJ Founder
(c) 2019 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.