Not even a severe thunderstorm could deny Steven Castlen the official opening Tuesday of the city’s first public dog park.

Castlen, a local real estate agent and founder of the Owensboro Dog Park Association, cut the green ribbon with Mayor Tom Watson and other city officials standing at the Castlen Dog Park’s entrance at Legion Park.

“It was long overdue, and I’ve had several birthdays since the beginning of this,” said Castlen after the brief ceremony.

Watson said he felt good about the way the dog park turned out.

“This was part of my thought process ... connecting it to one of our parks,” Watson said. “ … I think it’s going to work out well.”

The looming storm, however, didn’t stop people from bringing their dogs to test out the dog park.

Tara Hodskins brought her 8-month-old collie mix, Koda, to release some energy.

Hodskins said she was looking forward to allowing her dog to run without a leash, which is permitted inside the dog park.

“I've been here before to walk him but not very often because it was restrictive,” Hodskins said. “ … So I’m excited about having the off-leash park.”

Hodskins said she moved from Indianapolis, Indiana, where dog parks were commonplace, to Owensboro that didn’t have any until now.

“We didn’t even have to leave our apartment complex to have one,” Hodskins said. “Our complex and the one across the street had a dog park that we could use as well. So we were kind of spoiled to have them available everywhere.”

Shawn McGowan was another spectator anticipating using the dog park for his dogs Beauford and Pharaoh — one a boxer and the other a pitbull mix.

“I think it’s amazing; I think it’s a great thing for the community and I think it will be a lot of fun to bring my dogs here,” McGowan said.

McGowan said he relocated to Owensboro two years ago from Bowling Green, which also had a public dog park.

“I was surprised there wasn’t a dog park when I moved here,” McGowan said.

Castlen’s group raised the $74,000 needed to build the nearly 2-acre Castlen Dog Park inside the 23.75-acre Legion Park.

The city will now take over the everyday maintenance and expenses of it.

The fenced-in area will serve as a public facility — one space for small dogs and a separate one for large dogs to run leash-free.

Castlen said the new dog park is a start but he’s already planning to add to it.

“We’d like to put a special-needs section for people with any size dogs that are old or have a problem,” Castlen said. “We’re going to start raising money for that.”

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Castlen Dog Park Rules

Hours of Operation:

• 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days per week, unless otherwise posted.

Dog Park Rules:

• Use park at your own risk. The City of Owensboro is not responsible for injuries to dogs, owners/handlers, or others using the park.

• Park for dogs and handlers only.

• Owners are legally responsible for the behavior of dog(s) at all times.

• Children under 13 must be accompanied and supervised by an adult at all times.

• Agility items for dogs only. Do not allow children to climb or play on equipment.

• Dog trainers may not use this facility to conduct business.

Owners/Handlers Must:

• Clean up dog waste immediately and place in receptacle.

• Be within the dog park supervising dog(s) with leash readily available at all times.

• Remove dog from park immediately if dog shows aggression toward other dogs or people.

• Be at least 16 years of age.

• Bring no more than three (3) dogs per adult.

• Close gates when entering and exiting.

• Do not allow dogs to dig holes. If they do, fill holes immediately.

Dogs Must:

• Be leashed while entering and exiting the park.

• Be current on all vaccinations and healthy.

• Wear a collar with identification and current rabies tag at all times.

Prohibited:

• Human and dog food

• Aggressive dogs

• Glass Containers

• Drugs/Alcohol

• Puppies (under 4 months)

• Dogs in heat

• Pets other than dogs

• Dogs who are ill

• Smoking

• Strollers, bikes, skateboards, and similar items

Reporting:

• In case of an emergency, call 911.

• Incidents, problems, or violations should be reported to OPD immediately at 270-687-8888.

• Call Owensboro Parks & Recreation at 270-687-8700 regarding maintenance or operational concerns.

• Violation of rules may be cited by Chapter 19 of the Owensboro Municipal Code.

Responsibility:

• Any person bringing dogs into this park assumes the legal responsibility, jointly and individually, with the owner of the dog(s) for any damage, disease or injury to persons, other dogs, or property, caused by the dog(s).

• Failure to comply with Dog Park Rules may result in you and your dog(s) being asked to leave the facility.

• By entering the facility, all persons agree to indemnify and hold harmless the City of Owensboro, its officers and agents from claims resulting from use.

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