After months of dedication, hard work and community support the City of St. James will holding a grand opening of the “Unleashed Dog Park” next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

When St. James resident Matt Leaman realized that his dogs needed to get more socialization with other dogs like everyone else in the surrounding area he found one of the closest options to be a 40 minute drive to Mankato.  With the cost of gas and other expenses that go along with the trip and also the time spent in the car Leaman knew that St. James and surrounding towns needed to build a park in the area. Currently the closest dog park locations are New Ulm, Fairmont, and Mankato.

While building  a close by dog park is a benefit for dog owners and the community Leaman still knew that getting approval, and proper funding could  be a challenge. The first step was to get a City Council member on board so when Leaman asked Nonnie Hanson if she could support the dog park she was quick to say yes, and from there the dog park concept took off.

The next step was to approach the City Council which took place in the Summer of 2015. The Council felt that the dog park would be a good idea and they said they would support it. The next step was to form a committee that would help with every step of the project. The committee consists of Matt Leaman, Margaret Maire, Nonnie Hanson, Steve and Jessica Lindee, Sam Hansen, and Jamie Scheffer.

The first task for the group was to find land that would be good for the park. After the group examined a few different options they eventually decided that thee extra land where the composite site is would be the perfect spot. The land which is about 2.75 acres is all city owned land which meant that it would cost no money for the land. Leaman and Hansen both said that one of the best qualities about the location they picked, and why it is such a unique spot is because there is plenty of shade for the dogs. One of the biggest concerns with the other locations was the lack of shade.

The next step was to try to raise money for the park. While Leaman was one of the biggest advocates for the park he knew that he wasn’t the best at public speaking. But like many community projects the committee had many different talents on it including someone who gives many presentations for a living County Attorney Steve Lindee. Lindee with the help of the committee prepared and gave a presentation to the St. James Area Foundation in hopes that they would fund the whole project. While they were a finalist for a grant the Foundation said that the project was so good that they would be able to find funding for it no matter what.

 

 Steve Lindee.Steve and Matt brought up the Dog Park idea at the Community Growth Initiative’s Bright Ideas Workshop and became finalists. As part of the final presentation they had to hammer out details of the project including location.. After the group examined a few different options they eventually decided that thee extra land where the composite site is would be the perfect spot. The land which is about 2.75 acres is all city owned land which meant that it would cost no money for the land. Leaman and Hansen both said that one of the best qualities about the location they picked, and why it is such a unique spot is because there is plenty of shade for the dogs. One of the biggest concerns with the other locations was the lack of shade. 

Lindee with the help of the committee prepared and gave a presentation at the Community Growth Initiative’s finalist meeting  in hopes that this Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) program would fund the whole project. While they were a finalist for a grant the Leadership Team said that the project was so good that they would be able to find funding for it no matter what. 

After this disappointing news, Leeman reached out to Maggie Maire and the City and an official committee was formed composed of Matt Leaman, Margaret Maire, Nonnie Hanson, Steve and Jessica Lindee, Sam Hansen, and Jamie Scheffer.

The whole community has been very supportive of the project and it shows through the fundraising numbers. The City of St. James Park Department gave  $5000 for the park. Other donations include $1000 from the St. James Area Foundation. The committee also held different fundraisers to try to raise money. In total they raised about $1,525 through fundraiser events which included a rummage sale, Hod Dog Days , a wine tasting, and a coffee and dessert event. The service clubs were also generous towards the dog park. The Sertoma Club donated $500, and they also received a Rotary Grant for $5000. The dog park also received private donations which totaled $100. Dog owners will be required to bring their dog on a leash but once they go through an initial gate and the gate is closed they can let their dog off their leash and at that time designate what side their dog belongs on.

One thing that city is looking forward to having people come to St. James to utilize the dog park, which for many people will be the only dog park near them. Another thing that they are looking forward to is having tourists stopping in St. James because it is a dog friendly community with the dog park, along with the Super 8 being dog friendly and Plaza Jalisco allowing dogs in their outdoor seating area.  The city thinks that they people will stop on trips to get gas, or to get food because they will also have the chance to let their dogs out and let them run around. “ We look forward to marketing St. James as a dog friendly community,” said Sam Hansen St. James City Manager.

Eagle Scout Project

When St. James Boy Scout Lucas Doll was told about the Dog Park being built in St. James he knew he wanted to step up and help out as part of his Eagle Scout Project.

“One of our scout leaders asked me if I wanted to do something at the dog park to help out. I said yes, that sounds cool and then I started planning to make benches.”

After going to the St. James Park Board for approval Doll was granted the request to build benches in the park for dog owners to sit on as a way to enhance the park.

The City Council approved the request during the last meeting.

During the Grand Opening of the Dog Park there will be refreshments served.