SMITHVILLE — The process began four years and seven months ago, according to Smithville resident Danielle Wilson. Having spearheaded the dog park effort in Smithville, Wison said it all began with efforts to exercise her and a friend’s German shepherds.
Wilson said the pair had contact with Clay County Park Rangers for allowing the dogs off their leashes, which is not allowed at nearby Smithville Lake.
“We did a lot of research on the breed,” Wilson said of her and her husband. “You really need to exercise them, … so one day my friend and I got to talking about how nice it would be to have a dog park in Smithville.”
While her friend diverted her focus to another project, Wilson pressed forward. Her dream for a dog park is now becoming a reality at the Little Platte South Trail Access at the corner of Litton Way and Old Jefferson Highway at Smithville Lake.
“We had visited a couple parks, one in Liberty and one in Kansas,” Wilson said. “We just wanted to see what they looked like.”
Wilson later approached then-Smithville City Administrator Steve Garrett, and asked him what she could do. Wilson said the administrator told her a dog park would have to go through the Army Corps of Engineers and Clay County, but it could be done.
Wilson said she knew the park should include a fence with two areas, one for small dogs and one for large dogs.
The park, which got underway with a groundbreaking earlier this month, is a long-awaited partnership between Clay County and Smithville.
According to Clay County, Smithville is spending $4,000 to put in waterlines while the county will spend $60,000 for the rest of the park’s costs, including features Wilson had asked for.
“Once we started the Facebook page we had like 300 people in the first day,” Wilson said of the grassroots effort to get approval for a dog park. “By the third day, we had something like 700 people. We were pretty positive that this was something that was wanted by a large number of people just by the very, very fast reaction that we had.”
The park was not without its delays. Smithville turned over its mayor and city administrator with Mayor Damien Boley and Administrator Cynthia Wagner joining the park efforts after they began. In addition, subsequent lack of and miscommunication between county leaders and city staff hindered the project’s forward momentum.
Despite these issues, Wilson said through the transition, everyone was supportive and helpful.
“I had a great response from (Clay County Commissioners) Jerry (Nolte) and Luann Ridgeway,” Wilson said.
“I introduced myself and told them, ‘I’m the dog park lady,’” she said with a laugh. “If anyone is talking about it, that’s me.”
Wilson said once Boley and Wagner came on board in Smithville, they picked up the project and ran with it, sending regular emails to county staff.
“This really came at the perfect time,” Wilson said in hindsight. “They’re doing the trail system in Smithville where they are connecting all of the different neighborhoods to the trail system.”
Wilson considers the effort a proud moment.
“I’m super, super excited about the fact that it’s happening. I think I’m more proud of the amount of people who gathered together behind it and just had great attitudes,” she said. “From the beginning, we knew there was a chance it wouldn’t happen, but we went in with the attitude that we are just going to do our best and be patient. … It really paid off in the end.”