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NL’s dog park is now open!

A soft open now ahead of grand opening in the spring for the Red Fern Dog Park
A new park, all to himself. Louis, a 6-month-old standard poodle, surveys one of three runs at the Red Fern Dog Park in North Liberty on Thursday, Oct. 1. Louis and his doggie mom, Maria Bozaan, were the first to use the new park roughly an hour after its official opening at sunrise. A grand opening event is tentatively planned for next spring.

NORTH LIBERTY– Louis was very excited. As a 6-month-old standard poodle puppy, he’s naturally a happy and curious creature. On Thursday, Oct. 1, however, he had a whole new world to explore, and but for his human and the local newspaperman, it was all his.
Louis and his doggie mom, Maria Bozaan, were the first to visit the park, which officially but quietly opened at sunrise. Bozaan explained she had been taking Louis to the dog park in Iowa City, but living and working from home in North Liberty, the new Red Fern Dog Park was a long-awaited convenience.
The 5.1-acre park is located at 980 North Liberty Rd. and has three sections, with two open to all dogs, and one for small dogs only.
The park is named after the children’s novel, Where the Red Fern Grows, written in 1961 by Wilson Rawls. Rawls’ story is about a young boy named Billy, and his two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann. After many adventures, the dogs save Billy from a mountain lion, but Old Dan is seriously injured in the process. After Old Dan dies from his injuries, Little Ann gives up her will to live and dies a few days later. A red fern sprouts between the dogs’ graves, with legend saying a red fern symbolizes sacred ground, and that only an angel can plant one.
The name was selected after a 2019 naming contest held by the city.
Plans and discussion for a dog park in North Liberty started in 2009 when Lydia Fine started a Facebook page and online petition to gauge interest. After two years, only 89 signatures were on the petition, but her friend Sarah Woods joined the cause and together the pair of doggie moms launched a more vigorous campaign. After only four weeks, those 89 signatures had jumped to over 400. The Johnson County Dog PAC (Park Action Committee) was consulted after their successful efforts to establish the Thornberry Dog Park on Foster Road in Iowa City. The pair looked for potential sites, met with the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and had the lofty goal of having a park established and turned over to the city (for ownership and maintenance) within a couple of years. In 2015, a group led by Sara Langenberg and Jake Villhauer, North Liberty Residents for a Dog Park, picked up where Fine and Woods had left off. The city began committing funds for the park in 2018 and purchased the parcel of land.
Memberships will be required for use after October at the rate of $50 annually for dogs living in North Liberty, and $57 for non-resident canines.
For further information contact animal@northlibertyiowa.org or call 319-626-5722. The Johnson County Dog Park Action Committee is active online at https://www.facebook.com/northlibertydogpark, and at https://www.northlibertydogpark.com.
A grand opening celebration is tentatively scheduled for next spring.

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