The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


December 4, 2008

Scout proposes dog park for Sunbury

SUNBURY -- City dog owners looking for a place to let their pets run free may get their wish soon enough.

Gabrielle Edwards, 11, is trying to earn a Bronze Award -- the highest honor a Junior Girl Scout can earn -- and would like to do it by building a dog park in Sunbury.

She has personal reasons for wanting the park as well.

"We've got a dog, and he'll run away if he's not on a leash," she said as Teddy, the family's Bichon Frise-poodle-terrier mix, circled her feet at the kitchen table.

Teddy loves going for walks and playing with other dogs, Gabrielle and her mother, Linnette Bidelspach, said. They'd like to give him a place where he can do that more freely.

Bidelspach and her daughter have been in touch with McGuigan's Public House owner Scott Johnson, who expressed his interest in putting a dog park in the city a year ago to Mayor Jesse Woodring. The idea also was suggested as part of a master plan to revitalize the city prepared by Pennsylvania State University students earlier this year.

"It gives (people) a drawing place to come together. Parks aren't just for kids," Johnson said. "I have a dog myself and nowhere to go. ... For some people, (walking their dog along the road) is kind of an inconvenience, and occasionally it can be a hazard."

Gabrielle said she and her mother "talked to everybody that we saw walking their dog practically and they said it's definitely something we need in the area."

Though they live in Northumberland, Bidelspach and her daughter were born in Sunbury and consider it their home.

"We're Sunburians at heart," Bidelspach said.

Ideally, Johnson said, he'd like to take one of the city's handful of blighted properties, tear it down and put the park there.

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