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
(c) 2018 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.