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 was 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

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