By Derrick Knutson
A plethora of pooches could soon be pounding their paws over an expanse of acreage at North Branch’s Checkerboard County Park.
A group of residents, with the backing of the county, are hoping they can get the canine-centered park constructed at Checkerboard by this spring.
A public hearing on the project during the county board’s regular meeting is scheduled for March 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Suzanne Kocurek, one of about 10 residents seeking ways to make the park a reality, said her group first approached the city of North Branch over a year ago with a petition signed by over 200 people to have the park built at Riverwalk Park off Forest Boulevard, but the group determined that location was too small.
Laird Mork, Chisago County Parks director, said the county was interested in constructing a dog park at Checkerboard, and has been in correspondence with Kocurek’s group about the project.
Mary Darragh Schmitz, director of the Chisago County Department of Environmental Services and Zoning, said the county park board has been researching the possibility of a dog park there for about a year.
Currently, the main aim is to get acres of land fenced off at the park.
Mork said right now the county doesn’t have a specific amount of land in mind – that will be determined if the county board approves of amending its parks plan to incorporate a dog park at Checkerboard.
Where funding for the fencing and other additions to the park, such as dog waste clean-up stations and picnic tables, will come from hasn’t been determined yet, either.
“We’re going to be doing some fundraising,” Kocurek said.
However, some of the fencing has already been covered because the Almelund Lions donated it to the county.
Kocurek estimated the cost for the fencing would be about $500, and the group would continue to fundraise in order to purchase additional items for the park.
She and her group have been trying to raise awareness for the project through a number of online means, including an e-mail address, a website and a Facebook page.
Kocurek acknowledged some people might not think a dog park is needed in an area some might deem rural, but she sees many advantages to a dog park at Checkerboard.
“You (the dog owners) get to talk to other people, you get to know people and they’re very friendly. It’s a good way for dogs and puppies to socialize, and walking around the park is good exercise for the owners, too.”
She added people who own dogs are usually pretty proud of their pups.
“People like to talk about their dogs, just like they like to talk about their kids.”