Dogs on the run at Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park

WHEELING — Sawyer, a 10-month-old Great Pyrenees, seemed to quickly become friends with Apollo, a 5-month-old boxer, when the two met Thursday at the Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park: A PetSafe Park.

“They just met a few minutes ago,” said Sawyer’s owner, Scott Pinter of Wheeling. “It’s awesome for him. This really helps him learn good social skills.”

The park, some five years in the making, officially opened with a dedication from Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott and other city leaders Thursday. It is located in the Tunnel Green Recreation Complex in East Wheeling.

One side of the park is for dogs weighing in at more than 30 pounds, while the other side is for those tipping the scales under this mark. There are separate gated entrances for each side, with water stations in each. The park is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days per year, unless it is closed for scheduled maintenance.

Because dogs are required to be on a leash if they are outside the gate anywhere in the city, dog owners began working on the park in 2012. In 2013, the local community participated in the PetSafe’s “Bark for Your Park” contest, which earned Wheeling $25,000 toward the project. In 2016, the association announced that the Fitzsimmons Foundation also donated $25,000 for park construction. Both contributions are represented in the formal name.

“My dog is very excited. She is so wonderful and friendly,” Wheeling Dog Park Association member Tara Patterson said. “It’s so hard for dogs to socialize if they cannot run free.”

However, some dogs are not allowed at the park, including any breeds that fall under regulation of the city’s dangerous and vicious dog ordinance or any dog that is in heat. Toys and food will not be allowed in the park because the presence of such items can sometimes initiate conflict among dogs.

The city owns the property and will manage ongoing maintenance. The city and the association will co-host a grand opening event in the spring, when several other donors will be recognized for their contributions that will enhance the park in the coming months.

Officials said eventually there will be benches brought into the park, in addition to the construction of a garden and seating area. If the park becomes really popular, additional amenities such as lighting could be part of the future.

For more information, go to: https://www.facebook.com/WheelingDogPark/.

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