Dawg Park is dedicated

Gary Henderson (left) speaks to the crowd while the family of Ashley Younce admires the memorial bench made in her honor. Photo by Joseph Slacian

By Joseph Slacian

About 100 people gathered Friday evening, June 9, to watch a 30-year dream become a reality.

The crowd, along with several dogs of all shapes and sizes, came together on South Carroll Street to watch the dedication of the Dawg Park, Wabash’s first facility dedicated to man’s four-legged friend.

Gary Henderson, whose 30-year dream sparked a committee to create the park, emceed the ceremony, which was threatened by darkening clouds and the threat of rain.

Henderson introduced the committee and thanked the members for their efforts. He also thanked several others who were fundamental in building the park, including Stan and Patsy Myers who furnished the land for $1 per year, Dave Vandermark, who did much of the work at the site, and Steve Kirtlan, who is allowing the park to tap into his business’ water and electrical service to help avoid several thousands of dollars’ worth of work just to prepare the site for those utilities.

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of two memorial structures at the park.

The first, a memorial bench located under a pergola, is dedicated to the memory of Ashley Younce, a Wabash County 4-H alumnus who passed away in 2012 following a long health battle. She and her dog, Macy, are memorialized on the bench, which was built by Mike Halderman.

Ashley’s parents, Brian and Cindy Younce, said their daughter would be pleased with the bench and extremely happy that the park is now a reality.

“It’s gorgeous,” Younce said.

Mrs. Younce added, “It’s breathtaking. It’s a wonderful memory for her. She would be very, very proud of this. This would have been right up her alley.

“It’s just been a labor of love, the past several weeks and months.”

The second memorial, a small fountain featuring a little boy and girl washing a puppy, is dedicated to Henderson’s late uncle, James Forbes, who served as the second chair of the Wabash County 4-H Dog Club.

Henderson said his uncle also was instrumental in the dog competition at the Indiana State Fair.

The Myerses are pleased with the park.

“It’s more than I ever thought it would be,” Mrs. Myers said. “I’m so excited for Gary.”

Earlier in the day, Henderson and his brother, Randy, were manning a smoker, preparing a meal to be served at the dedication ceremony by Smokin’ for a Cause.

“I think he’s excited,” Randy said of his brother. “But at the same time he’s anxious. It’s the anxiety of working up to the program.”

Gary Henderson, sitting in a lawn chair under a tent, looked back on his vision.

“Thirty years,” he told The Paper of Wabash County. “Literally 30 years ago. I would say it was a dream.”

The dream almost became a reality much sooner, he said, when he and the late Richard Ford were looking into the possibility of creating a dog park in the Charley Creek Gardens.

“But that fell through,” he said.

Part of the problem in building the park, he said, was trying to convince people that it “more than an area with a fence for dogs to roam.”

“Now that it’s up and they can see the color and stuff … “ he said. “And in my case, I wanted something challenging for the novices who have never been in it, enough for someone like me, who is going beyond (novice stage).

The park has a variety of obstacles for the dogs to use. In addition, an area is fenced off for puppies to roam.

More equipment will be added over time, Henderson noted.

There will be an annual membership fee to use the park, which will begin in July.

Posted on 2017 Jun 13