POTSDAM - Potsdam may not have finished as an official winner in this year’s PetSafe Bark for your Park contest, but it looks like the community’s canines will still have a place for frolicking within the next few months.
The nationwide competition’s top five finishers were revealed Thursday night, with a combined $200,000 awarded to the victors.
The top overall vote getter earned $100,000 for the construction of a new dog park in their community, while the runners-up (each in a different category based on city size) got $25,000.
Potsdam earned a spot in the final 15 after immense community support carried the small municipality through the first round.
Because of the support, along with thousands of dollars in donations, project coordinator Deborah P. Massell says that the park’s construction is still very much a reality.
“I did watch the announcement (of the winner) last night. I wasn’t surprised because I saw the numbers beforehand, before they went dark (on July 25,)” Mrs. Massell said. “We’re still going to build this. ... We just got Barrett Paving (Materials Inc.) to do the whole parking lot. It is about $18,000 still needed. We’re looking for a storage shed donation too.”
By July 24, Potsdam had accumulated 20,880 votes for its park, about half that of its nearest competitor in the small city category,according to Mrs. Massell.
The voting period ended on July 25 and a 12 day “dark period” followed, where the results were withheld.
During that time, park organizers and supporters continued work clearing dead trees and chipping branches that they will spread on park trails and in low-lying areas.
Future projects for the park include installation of fencing, gates, benches, a gazebo and a filling station for water bowls.
“I think we’re going to have all of the fencing by the fall so we can use the park by the fall. We just need the fence post, and we are researching that and have reached out to Tractor Supply and they can do a 5 percent discount with no tax,which is very nice,” Ms. Massell said.
“We do have a grant to be used, a $2,500 one from (Potsdam Central School.) It was the highest grant awarded out of the $10,000 amount for the dog park. It was for specific building materials and it was from the high school. I went to do a presentation recently on the project, and they were intrigued by the idea. They were passionate about where they were putting their money.”
Once Potsdam qualified for the finals in June, they received 200 dog toys.
This was far from the only support that the community received though.
The major donors - the donations are valued at nearly $24,000 - are the Potsdam Humane Society, J.E. Sheehan Contracting Corp., Potsdam Agway, Barrett Paving Materials Inc. and the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council.
“We just had our first $500 donation, and people really want this to happen,” Ms. Massell said. “The fact that we got into the finals of a national competition with over 1,400 cities has galvanized this entire community. They really believe in the power of small town community and doing something wonderful for shelter animals. I think PetSafe has shown themselves to be an incredibly decent company and that their heart is in the right place.”
Ms. Massell said the drop in Potsdam’s student population from the first round of voting to the second likely affected the community’s total votes.
“We still had well over 20,000 (votes) and did really well. We can always apply next year with new found knowledge,” she said. “We tried to get our census population down because of all the (college) students leaving. I think that was a big factor. We have more than 4,000 college students in Potsdam.”
With a dog park also slated for neighboring Canton in the near future, the project coordinator is thrilled there will be two local hangouts for man’s best friend.
“With the Canton dog park too, we went from not having a park within 90 miles of here to having two and that is amazing,” she said.
The new park is near the Potsdam Humane Society shelter, 17 Madrid Ave.
Funding is still needed for various items and donations can be made at http://PotsdamDogPark.com or by sending a check to the Potsdam Humane Society, 17 Madrid Ave., Potsdam, N.Y. 13676, with “dog park” in the memo line.