Nov 9, 2021 | Homepage FeaturedLocal News

By Kristin Barron

Community members gathered Thursday, Nov. 4 for an official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hancock Hounds Dog Park (HHDP) which will be located behind the Hancock Town Hall at 661 West Main Street. Pictured above are, from left to right, front row: Executive Director of the HHDP, Jill Keller, Yolande Zahler, and Judith Present with dog Koda. Back Row: Hancock Supervisor Jerry Vernold, Kelia Dufton, Hancock Partners President Mike Argiros, Hancock Area Chamber of Commerce President and HHDP President, Ashley Rossi, HHDP Secretary and Director of Design, Richard Lowe, Vallessa Monk, Steve Zahler, and Jen and David Karp with dog Clover.

When Donna Torch approached the Hancock Town Board to ask for the creation of a community dog park this past May, little did she know that in just six months her dream would become a reality.

“There’s a bunch of people who want this to happen,” said Torch, who is the Town of Hancock’s Dog Officer, at that May 4th meeting. But she wondered just who would step up to the effort of organizing such a project. Where could such a park even be located? Torch asked.

Little did she know that waiting in the wings was a team of Town residents looking for a chance to offer their support to area citizens and their canine companions. They called themselves The Hancock Hounds Dog Park (HHDP) committee and they began a search for an ideal park spot.

When the Hancock Town Board offered to donate a vacant lot of town owned land positioned behind the Town Hall building at 661 West Main Street for use in the organization’s project, the committee jumped at the chance. And the new venture began to take shape.

Fast forward to this past Thursday when local business owners, town residents and Hancock Town Supervisor Jerry Vernold (along with several local dogs) all gathered at the site of the new Hancock Hounds Dog Park for the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony.

Community members drilled holes for the first fence posts that will make up the five-foot fence which will surround the park’s perimeter. The Park is set to open at the end of November, said Richard Lowe, HHDP Secretary and Design Director.

“The outpouring of support for this venture has been incredible”, said Jill Keller, executive Director of the HHDP. “I’m excited about Hancock’s future and all those who will benefit from the park, residents, and four legged friends.”, she said. Keller, who has been driving every week to bring her dog to the closest dog park in Deposit, NY, noted the need for a local dog park for owners and visitors to gather. “Healthier animals, social activities, increased business locally, and job opportunities,” would be the outcome of the new park, she said. “Thank you all,” she said.

Ashley Rossi, President of the HHDP and The Hancock Chamber of Commerce, noted that animal products and services are one of the fastest growing industry sectors in the country. It is estimated that the U.S. will spend more than $900 billion on their pets in 2021, Rossi said. “We want our residents to be able to spend their pet dollars here in Hancock and keep dollars and economic activity at home. We have already seen an influx in dog product businesses emerging in this area to offer their services in the last month alone,” she said.

The HHDP hopes not only to attract new business to Hancock but also to offer classes on dog safety and welfare. Plans to hold seasonal festivals as fundraisers and possibly even build an ice rink in the park for local children are also under consideration.

The new park site is also uniquely situated next to what will become the Town’s new Electric Vehicle Charging Stations which will open in Fall 2022. They are also projected to bring more business to the town.

Now designated as a New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation, the Hancock Hounds organization is currently seeking 501c3 status by the end of 2021 to be classified as an S20 NTEE Community and neighborhood beautification charity.

When completed in 2022, the 1.5-acre dog park will be divided into separate sections for small and large dogs. The Park surface will be composed of natural grasses and bluestone and a variety of metal equipment will be installed. Two dog runs and the interior and exterior walkways will be edged with local lavender bluestone donated by the Zahler family of Hancock. The Park will also feature custom metal works by resident metal worker and artist Vallessa Monk. Help with the development of the park has also been received from the Delaware Valley Garden Club and Delaware County Landscape Architect Sean Leddy. The organization also operates a GoFundMe fund raising site.

Dog owners who utilize the park must always remain with their animals. All visitors to the park will enter at their own risk and must abide by the organization’s rules and requirements.

The Hancock Hounds Dog Park is a testament to Hancock’s growth in recent years and how we value new ideas and listen to our neighbors,” added Supervisor Vernold.

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