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Potsdam Dog Park poised to win grant in Bark for Your Park contest


POTSDAM – The Potsdam community has come together to create the first dog park in the north country, and it is poised to win either $25,000 or $100,000 in a national contest that is championing community spirit to “Bark For Your Park.”

Many towns have dog parks where dogs can run and play off leash, safely enclosed by fencing, without risk of running into traffic, but our local community has even more hazards such as animal traps, wild animals, and deep, icy rivers. A dog park provides exercise, mental stimulation and socialization for dogs as well as exercise and interaction for dog owners.

The north country has not had such a dog park, but will have one soon.

The most exciting development recently has been the project has been nominated for the PetSafe “Bark For Your Park” contest, where Potsdam could win $25,000 or $100,000 to boost the building of their dog park. Amazingly, Potsdam made it to the finals - the project is one of the top 15 vote-getters in the entire nation - and now needs to step up the pace to out-vote other towns from across the country that are in the running, by getting more online votes.

Anyone can link to the two voting sites at and vote twice each day through the July 31st deadline. Even if you don’t live in the area, you can still vote for Potsdam. Every Friday you can also play an easy clue game starting at and win 7 extra votes. There will soon be a 30-second video on YouTube as well, and every view for Potsdam earns a vote.

The Potsdam Community Dog Park is an extension of the Potsdam Humane Society (PHS) and is located on their land. There will be three separate areas: the main dog park, with over 2.5 acres of multiple trails, a gazebo, clean water and dog waste disposal facilities, a separate space for small dogs, and an additional ½ acre “special use” area for Humane Society dogs, special training, or dogs who do better separated from the group, and that’s almost 10 times what the PHS currently has to offer. The design, donated by Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture of Burlington, Vt., takes advantage of the setting and will provide a more natural environment for shelter dogs and potential dog-adopters to get to know one another. With all the added visitors, hopefully more animals will be adopted.

Deborah Massell and Jackson Francisco have organized almost daily work parties to clear and beautify the densely wooded lot. Volunteers of students, college athletic teams, fraternities, BOCES students, and community members have all pitched in. Bringing all these people together toward a common goal has built a dedicated community of dog lovers.

Fundraising for the park has been a long and involved process. Funding has come through a combination of grants, individual donors, supplies, and services, and the Village of Potsdam has been extremely supportive of the project.

Special thanks go to Darryl Kolanko and the Potsdam Agway for the fencing, Jim Sheehan of J.E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. for the loan of an industrial wood chipper, the Potsdam Youth Philanthropy Council for bestowing a $2,500 grant, Seaway Tech BOCES for their students and faculty, SUNY Potsdam for concrete bench forms, Paul Hetzler and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County for an invasive species survey, Clarkson University for sending over such dedicated student and faculty groups, and all the hardworking community members for their energy and their many skills.

There is still a lot of work to be done. In addition to clearing the land, many supplies are still needed. Anyone can make a tax-deductible donation or sign up to volunteer at

Massell is hoping more people will help complete the park through the online voting, community service, and fundraising.

Massell describes this whole process as “an overwhelming yet exhilarating experience with lots of challenges to overcome. “But it’s so rewarding to see the community come together for the benefit of our dogs and our animal shelter. Please vote and contribute in whatever way you can to help Potsdam win the PetSafe contest! Our dogs really need us, and we need the Potsdam Community Dog Park,” she said.

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