“People love their dogs up here!” declares Kelly Martin, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenai Peninsula Association of REALTORS® (KPAR) in Southcentral Alaska. Most of her 68 REALTORS® and many Affiliate members have dogs. Earlier this fall, partnering with the local Rotary Club and the City of Soldotna Parks and Recreation Department, the small but active association used a Placemaking Grant to help build a large pavilion in a community dog park that had been created from a formerly distressed and unsafe vacant lot.
The 3 Friends Dog Park, opened in September 2017, is a public-private partnership: a city-owned property, its development was funded by the estate of three friends, was spearheaded by the hard work of dog lover Connie Hocker, and is maintained by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The dedicated fenced lot features separate off-leash zones for both large and small dogs, trail, water station, toys, community bulletin board, and a pet memorial wall. A plan is in place to construct a canine agility course in 2019. But one important thing the new park was missing was a covered space to shelter owners from the elements and accommodate activities and events.
Martin, who is in her second year with the REALTORS®, explains that as she was learning about the National Association of REALTORS®’ Core Standards, and considering ways to make the association even better, she put feelers out among the members seeking ideas for increased community involvement. Using a REALTOR® Party Placemaking Grant to help complete the popular dog park was a prospect that excited everyone involved. Says 2018 KPAR President Dale Bagley, “I believe REALTORS® should be willing to give back to the community they live in and help make it a better place. There was a real need for this dog park, and I am glad the REALTORS® were able to contribute to improving Soldotna’s quality of life.”
The grant application process was extremely smooth, reports Martin, and the $2,500 that KPAR received was presented to the city to pay for construction supplies. A significant contribution of elbow grease came from many REALTOR® volunteers and several Affiliate members who joined with members of the local Rotary Club and hardworking Parks and Rec employees over the course of three days to construct the lofty wooden structure. At a later date, they were back at it, constructing built-in benches under the new pavilion. Bagley, says Martin, was especially dedicated, reporting to the job site at 8:00 a.m. each day with his own tools, which really helped move the build along. Bagley, meanwhile, noted the impact that the temporary closure had on the park’s biggest fans: “The dog park was closed while we were working on the pavilion, and there were many sad dog faces going by in their owners’ cars as they were checking to see if the dog park had reopened yet!”
“We’re so proud of what our REALTOR® and Affiliate volunteers have been able to accomplish for the community, and we really enjoyed working alongside The City of Soldotna Parks and Rec, Rotary Club and Connie Hocker, says Martin. “The response has been amazing. There’ve been lots of great posts on Facebook, and an article in the local paper, and we’ve even heard a local DJ talking the project up on the radio. Best of all, for me, is that I drive by the dog park just about every day, and see first hand how well appreciated it is! We’re all very grateful to NAR for making it possible.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® are improving the community of Soldotna for dogs and their humans, contact Kelly Martin, Kenai Peninsula Association of REALTORS® CEO, at 907-262-1851.