AMSTERDAM — An overlooked corner at Forbes Street and Vrooman Avenue has been spruced up by community volunteers, and transformed into Amsterdam’s first dog park.
“It’s just a little patch of land, it’s on a hill, but it’s enough to turn into something beautiful and it gives other people vision and hope that they can create something out of nothing,” said John Sumpter, director of youth outreach at Creative Connections Clubhouse.
The grassy streetcorner owned and maintained by the city likely went unnoticed until kids and staff at Creative Connections eyed the parcel for reuse. City officials welcomed the vision for a dog park from the nonprofit serving at risk youth at nearby 305 E. Main St.
“We’re in the neighborhood, we’re trying to beautify any areas that look neglected,” Sumpter said. “There are so many little spots to cover that sometimes it takes the community to help.”
After weeks of planning and preparations, neighborhood volunteers and regional Hannaford staff joined Creative Connections members to install the park. The bulk of the work was timed to coincide with community initiatives across the area during 518 Day from the United Way of the Greater Capital Region on Thursday.
Public works crews helped clear away debris before mulch from Power Pallet was spread across the site. Wood posts were used to build a partial fence around the plot. Benches, a dog waste station with complimentary cleanup bags and a garbage can were installed.
A colorful mural featuring canines and related images was painted on a realigned retaining wall bordering the park. The artwork was designed by Colton Madore, a freshman at Amsterdam High School.
“This was his first mural project, he’s passionate about artwork,” Sumpter said. “To see his dreams and hopes of what he loves come to fruition, it’s a good feeling.”
The low-cost project was supported by a $1,000 grant from Saratoga Arts. The improvements spearheaded by Creative Connections have already had an impact on Amsterdam’s East End, according to Mayor Michael Cinquanti.
“We are so appreciative of the work they do,” Cinquanti said. “It made that corner much more appealing to the eye and hopefully the dogs will find it enjoyable and folks who bring their dogs keep it maintained.”
Creative Connections staff plan to help maintain the park and stock the dog waste station. Sumpter hopes neighbors will do their part to keep the open space clean while enjoying it with their pets. Dogs visiting the park must be kept on leashes.
“Every morning I see neighbors walking their dogs through the city on the East End,” Sumpter said. “To have a place to congregate, to come together, or a place for dogs to play is important. It gives our city and community and neighborhood a place of pride.”
Beyond finishing touches to the mural, Sumpter said further improvements to the park are planned with paver stones to be installed at the entrances. He is also seeking donations of shrubs to plant a natural landscaped border around the fence.
“We’re hoping to keep that motivation going for others to do the same type of work throughout the city,” Sumpter added.
The city is eventually expected to install a dog park on land now carrying eastbound on Route 5 using a portion of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant. Plans will be fleshed out when the road is shut down and the land reclaimed by Amsterdam for public projects.
In the meantime, pet parents and their canines can already enjoy the new park space on a formerly overlooked streetcorner revamped by community volunteers.
“Creative Connections is such an asset to that neighborhood and our community,” Cinquanti said. “Community service is a large part of their mission and the kids they serve get involved. To come up with an idea like a dog park, and to beautify an area like that corner, is indicative of why they are so valuable to our city and I thank them very much.”
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.
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