A half-acre in Lawrenceville has finally gone to the dogs.
After five years of planning and fundraising, the Bernard Dog Run has been completed. It lies on city property along the riverfront trail under the 40th Street bridge and opens with a 3:30 p.m. ceremony Saturday.
It is named for the late Jay Bernard, an advocate for stray and shelter dogs and co-founder of Jay Design, a soap-making and retail business on Butler Street.
Dogs will have to play awfully hard to become as exhausted as the dog run committee became working out logistics with the city and raising money. The committee had raised about $13,000 by this summer, largely with proceeds from an annual gourmet spaghetti dinner, but its big-ticket item was a cyclone fence for which it needed about $27,000.
"Lawrenceville United and the Bernard Dog Run Committee worked tirelessly with the city to finalize legal, zoning, and any other logistical needs to make sure that when the money came in for the fence, it could be built with little to no wait," said Susan VanAlstine, a committee member.
And in what amounted to an instant in dog-run committee years, they had the money to pay for the fence and the labor to install it. National radio personality Delilah Rene Luke and an entourage from her Paint the Town charity had been scouting the city for a neighborhood to boost. They wanted one that already had catalytic energy and asked the stakeholder groups Lawrenceville Corp. and Lawrenceville United if they wanted to partner on improvement projects.
Lauren Byrne, executive director of Lawrenceville United, saw the offer as a chance to catapult the dog park to completion. "It has been so long in coming and is such a big issue in the neighborhood," she said.
Allegheny Fence installed the fence last week and volunteers spread $5,000 worth of mulch last weekend. The dog run remains off limits while liability agreements are signed and poison ivy and other invasive growth are removed.
Duquesne Light contributed $23,500 to help pay for solar lights in the dog run.
"All the neighbors have been asking me, 'What's happening with the dog park?' " said Chris Lugo, a committee member who walks his pug-beagle mix and lab-pointer mix two or three times a day. "Finally I could tell them, 'It's done!' "
The dog run is 310 feet long and more than 50 feet wide. A small-dog area is separated from a longer, big dog area by a common vestibule entrance. It is partially lined with trees that were already there.
Ms. VanAlstine said the committee expects that on any given day between 50 and 100 dogs and their owners will use the dog run. Lawrenceville's dog owners have been using Buncher Co. lots, areas of Arsenal Park and riverfront trails to exercise their dogs. She said the fence is essential for the safety of dogs like her three, which include a greyhound mix that would run off for the sake of a scent.
Her husband, Michael VanAlstine, has been volunteering at the site clearing weeds. "I'm out here every day," he said, "and the sheer number of people who have walked by with dogs saying how excited they are is amazing."
Paint the Town, a national community-building charity, will also pay for a mural of Doughboy Square on the 40th Street underpass, and the painting of the concession stand at Sullivan Field and about 20 businesses and homes on Liberty Avenue. Jeff Payne, the local project manager for Paint the Town, said hundreds of volunteers are recruited to help carry out its sponsored projects.
"We work with radio stations in Delilah's markets," he said. "We visited 12 neighborhoods before deciding on this community because of the active volunteer numbers and the community involvement."
Volunteers were already at work on the mural and other painting projects near the trail last week.
Delilah will be in the neighborhood Saturday to paint with volunteers starting at 8 a.m. The local partners are the United Methodist Church, Glidden Paint, WSHH-99.7 FM, Lawrenceville United and the Lawrenceville Corp.
For more information on volunteering with Paint the Town, visit: http://www.wshh.com/paint_the_town.aspx.