Potsdam dog park organizers working for surge in voting in $100,000 online contest
Monday, July 7, 2014 - 8:52 am

POTSDAM – Potsdam’s new dog park is trailing in the voting for a $100,000 web contest prize, and organizers are working toward a surge in voting before the deadline, July 31.

Potsdam is ninth of 15 finalists overall in the standings for the big prize as of Monday, and is third out of five small cities, the winner of which is eligible for a $25,000 prize.

In the small cities category, Potsdam had about 10,400 votes, while Waverly, Iowa had a strong lead with more than 45,000 votes, and Tehachapi, Cal. had almost 24,000 votes.

The Potsdam community has come together to create the first dog park in the North Country, and it is vying to win in the national contest that is championing community spirit to "Bark For Your Park!" The Contest is sponsored by Petsafe,net.

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.

Potsdam surprised doubters by making it to the final round of 15.

Now they are asking voters 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 potsdamdogpark.com and vote twice each day through the July 31 deadline. Anyone can vote for Potsdam, from anywhere in the world. Every Friday people can also play an easy clue game at www.PetSafe.net and win 7 extra votes.

There will soon be a 30-second video on YouTube as well, and while in past years every view of the Potsdam video would have earned an extra vote, this year viewing the video will serve as an extra amount of satisfaction but will not add to the vote tally.

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 half-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. With all the added visitors, the Humane Sopciety is hoping 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.

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 supportive of the project.

Among those deserving special thanks, according to organizers, are 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 http://potsdamdogpark.com. 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.”