What started off as a dream became a dog park in St. James last week.

The St. James “ Unleashed Dog Park” had their grand opening last week as a way to celebrate the completion of the dog park.

During the event about 75 dogs of all different sizes with their owners along with different community members were in attendance.

St. James City Councilor, and a member of the dog park committee Nonnie Hanson said that the dog park is an example of what can happen when the community rallies around a cause.

“My first impression was the beauty of the grounds, of the dogs running, racing and playing nice. Sheer dog heaven on earth!  What started out as a hope, Matt's vision became a reality! Utilizing the vast talents presented on the dog park committee, the project came together for the better of our city. Without financial help from very cooperative service groups and individuals, our dog park would still be sitting in a file as a future dream. Making it happen together! We  all should be extremely proud to promote St. James as our home!”

The forming of the dog park first started when St. James community member Matt Leaman made the pitch for why St. James should have their own dog park.

As an avid dog owner, Leaman would always take his dogs miles away in order for them to enjoy a park.

Leaman knew he needed to first get support so he approached Councilwoman Hanson who quickly agreed to help support the project.

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.

After making the pitch to different organizations and community members for a couple of years, the committee was able to obtain enough funding to open the 2.75 acre dog park.

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, Hotdog 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.

After the dog park was open Leaman realized that the park was another example of what a small community like St. James can accomplish when everyone works together.

Economic benefits

One of the many benefits of having a dog park in St. James is the ability to promote St. James as a dog friendly community.

Joe McCabe, St. James Area Chamber of Commerce Director, said that the addition of the dog park is a huge asset for the City.

“Having the only dog park in Watonwan County is another asset for  our community. With the St James Vet Clinic located here and more than one store catering to the needs of dogs with food and dog treats we need to be marketing the "one stop shop" for dog owners.  We are already hearing rave reviews on the size, location and setting concerning the Unleashed Dog Park.”

Jamie Scheffer St. James EDA Director and a member of the Dog Park Committee said the City is very thankful for the many people that helped with bringing a dog park to St. James.

“The City of St. James is thrilled by the turnout that we had at the dog park grand opening! It is wonderful to see community members (and their dogs!) excited about this new amenity in our community. The City would like to give a huge thank you to the community members who worked so hard to make this dream a reality-- it would not have happened without your passion and dedication. And of course, the many sponsors we had to raise the funds, a huge thank you to you as well!”

For more information about the dog park check out their Facebook page.