Grand Opening Is A Mutts-See Event

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As Payson's canine population prepares to mark new territory, their owners are preparing to mark the grand opening of the new Payson Off-Leash Park.

Town of Payson notables, along with the many residents who played a role in the creation of the park, are invited to participate in Saturday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the 1.5-acre facility just north of the new library at Rumsey Park.

Following the official opening, live music will be offered by the Old Time Music Makers, and free treats will be dispensed to all four-legged celebrants some of whom are expected to arrive in costumes.

"It's a great relief and something we're really proud of," Vivian Taylor, president of Paws in the Park, said. Paws is a group of dog owners that organized the project. "It's taken us a year to do this, so we feel like it's a real accomplishment. I personally feel like I've given birth, since I conceived the idea."

The most unheralded of the Paws members who helped turn her idea into reality, Taylor said, are Nancy Malmberg, chairperson for the park's monitors; Dave Minard, chairperson for park site improvements; professional artist Mike Rokoff, who designed the Paws logo, T-shirts and other promotional materials; and Payson's parks supervisor, Nelson Beck.

The new park one of a growing number of such facilities around the country sits on land donated by the town. Through a variety of fund-raising endeavors, the park features a double-gated leashing area at the entrance; separate fenced areas for small and large dogs; and benches, picnic tables and water fountains with drinking spouts at three different heights for dogs and their owners.

Paws in the Park, which has grown from 15 members to about 140 in the past year, provides monitors at the park during daylight hours when it is open a practice it will continue at least during the first three to six months of park operation. Eventually, the group hopes to offer spaying and neutering clinics, pet adoption programs, and other educational events.

Despite the long-awaited arrival of the park's grand opening, Taylor's group is continuing to raise money for more benches, a Founders' Wall featuring the names of cash donors, and engraved, bone-shaped metal plaques for those who donated sections of fencing. To that end, Paws in the Park will hold their second annual Big Hairy Yard Sale, as well as a pet fair, in the fall.

Those who wish to make donations can mail their checks or money orders to Paws in the Park, P.O. Box 1108, Payson, AZ 85541. For more information, call Christy Wrather at 476-2239.

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