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Heritage Harbor opens Ottawa's first dog park

Park includes little free library

Lily, a Labrador husky, and Bleu, an Australian cattle dog, playfully ran across a large open park at Heritage Harbor.

Their owner, Lara Kinkin, said their playtime usually consists of walks in downtown Ottawa, but on Wednesday they were one of the first dogs to play at Ottawa's first dog park.

"I love it. I'm so excited," Kinkin said as she watched her dogs from the other side of the fence. "We can't wait to come out here and I can't wait for some of these trees to be a bit bigger so they have some shade. They're going to love it. I mean, they already love it!"

Heritage Harbor owner Tom Heimsoth helped cut the ribbon on their new River Run Dog Park, right off the development's entrance, to a response of applause and enthusiastic barks from the dogs.

Heimsoth's own Rhodesian ridgeback, Sam for whom Red Dog Grill is named, also was on hand to kick off the festivities.

He said the park came together with the help of PetSmart Distribution Center and the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation and they're collectively glad to be able to meet a demand in the community.

"What happens in a dog park is really a lot more than dogs having fun and getting treated to exercise," Heimsoth said.

"You see people, meet other people, you see people having a good time with other people and you realize a dog park is as much about people as it is about dogs," he added.

PetSmart General Manager Mark Calloway also attended with HR Manager Missy Wendt, and Calloway said he too was proud to contribute.

"When we found the opportunity to be a part of it, we jumped on it," Calloway said.

"We're excited to be a part of it, excited we can contribute to the community and we think it's going to be a big hit," he added.

The park has a separate play area for big dogs and little dogs and a rule list at the gate opening.

"Hopefully we don't have to lock this down and do it by permit or do it by license or charge a fee. We'd much prefer to do it if everybody really obeys the rules and uses good common sense," Heimsoth said. "Then we'll be able to run this as a community park as any other public park should be, which is open to the public."

The park also has a Little Free Library for dog owners looking to take in a good book while visiting the park.

"But this one in particular is great because it has a place for dog treats," said SRCCF President Pamela Beckett.

She said library was created as part of a partnership with the Home Builders Institute in the Sheridan Correctional Center.

The park was seemingly well received by the number of pets that attended the park's opening with many playfully running back and forth while socializing with other dogs.

And, if they tire out, they can find additional energy at Red Dog Grill, which offers a puppy chow menu where they can lounge alongside their owners on the patio.

Kinkin said the socialization specifically is one of the unique advantages a dog park brings animals compared to Lily and Bleu's usual walk.

She expects they'll return often.

"We're just excited for the dog park. We've needed this in our community for so long. It's crazy we haven't had one," she said.

Heimsoth said they hope to add to the dog park to include natural stones, logs or items for training. Those interested in donating or participating can contact Heritage Harbor at 815-433-5000.

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