Fort Lee is putting the finishing touches on its long-awaited, and first-ever dog park, and although the park has been useable for some time now, borough officials have announced a grand opening in September.
The dog park, located at the end of Stillwell Avenue near the Fort Lee Recreation Center in William T. Birch Park, features a special surface that’s easy on the paws, water piped into both sections and available at the push of a button and stanchions with bags for cleaning up waste.
The final touches will be special benches, which were donated by Bank of New Jersey at $3,000 apiece, and a special sign, according to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who’s a dog owner himself and has made the park a sort of pet project.
Sokolich said he always tells people who plan to get involved in government to “attach yourself to a project that keeps a smile on your face because then you have a tendency to be able to endure everything else.”
“Last year, I used the September 11 Memorial to get me through the tough times,” Sokolich said. “This year, I used the dog park.”
The benches, which Sokolich described as “hysterical” and said are expected to arrive by the end of this week or early next week, will be eight-foot-long dog bones that say “Fort Lee Dog Park” on them.
“What I like about the benches is that without all sorts of crazy signage, you readily identify this area as a dog park,” Sokolich said.
The mayor said Michael Maresca of the Fort Lee DPW’s General Services has already built concrete pads for the benches so “an hour after those [benches] are delivered, they’ll be in; there’s no work that needs to be done.”
He gave much of the credit for putting in the time and getting the dog park built “the right way” to Maresca and members of his special projects team, who were also responsible for pulling off the in last year.
“Without that group, we would not be doing these things,” Sokolich said. “We’d have to spend $200,000 to do this park.”
Instead, Sokolich said, the borough didn’t even have to spend a tenth of that.
A sign reading “Fort Lee Dog Park” affixed under the William T. Birch Park sign, much like how the borough highlighted the 9/11 Memorial with a band attached between the four-by-fours of the Constitution Park sign, will complete the dog park.
“We’re still going to call the park William Birch because you certainly wouldn’t step on those toes,” Sokolich said. “That’s the main feature—the park—but then when we have some sort of special feature in the park, I have them do their band.”
The grand opening will feature giveaways, including portable, collapsible water trays, which Sokolich uses and says are easily kept in the glove compartment of your car, and bags for collecting waste.
There are also going to be veterinarians on hand with information, pet adoption agencies, refreshments and, of course, dog treats, according to Sokolich, who said he spent about 90 minutes at the new park Wednesday, during which about 12 people stopped by with their animals on a relatively hot day.
“[The dogs] did their business, and every single one of those people picked it up,” Sokolich said. “When you make something nice, and you spend time on something, and it’s a nice product, there’s much less of a tendency for people to abuse it. I really think they’re a lot more apt to follow the rules.”
The mayor added, “It’s a wonderful place for Fort Lee residents to spend time together and with their dogs, and it’s the first time in Fort Lee’s history that we finally have a healthy outlet for dogs.”
The grand opening of Fort Lee’s first dog park is Saturday, Sept. 22 at 10 a.m.
Patch will have photos of the park once the benches have been installed.