The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 23, 2013

Jackson Township girl, 6, goes all out to make dog park a reality

By Jenna Ebersole
Associated Press

— Kindergartner Maura Mulherin of Jackson Township is on a mission.

The 6-year-old is sewing pillowcases to sell to help raise money for a new dog park that will give her two dogs a place to run outside together and meet new friends.

The HJP Regional Dog Park hosted its first work day Saturday when volunteers gathered to mark a perimeter with flags and designate which trees should stay and go. The park is set to open in spring of 2015 on Bartonsville Woods Road.

Maura and her mother, Cristy Mulherin, came prepared with their work gloves and a child-sized wheelbarrow to help the other volunteers.

Maura also showed off each of her pillowcases, which are for sale for $10. So far, she has raised about $100 for the park project.

Maura said her two dogs are named Ellie and Ginger and she began learning to sew on her Hello Kitty sewing machine in the spring. Cristy said the fundraising project has been a good learning tool for her daughter, who is home-schooled.

"I just go to the fabric store and pick some out," Maura said, smoothing her hands over fabrics decorated with violet flowers and hummingbirds.

"Well, we don't have a dog park. So I want to help it so I can get it done for my dogs too," she said.

Cristy said Maura can complete a pillowcase in about 10 to 15 minutes, with some variation.

"It depends how much singing she does," she laughed.

Maura bounced from tree to tree alongside other helpers Saturday, marking them with yellow or pink ribbons to designate which will stay or go depending on their health and size.

Kim Ernsberger, Recreation Manager for the Hamilton Jackson Pocono Park and Open Space Commission, said the dog park will be about an acre in size at the start with space to expand later. She wore a T-shirt that said, "If we build it, dogs can run."

One third of the acre will be for small dogs and the rest for large dogs, with fencing around the area so dogs can be leash-free.

Ernsberger said about $40-50,000 is needed for the project, though grants could help bring the number down.

The park will have no corners, which prevents dogs from using a pack mentality to corner the weakest in the group. Several rules will also be in place, including proof of immunization, no aggressive dogs or dogs in heat and dogs cannot be left alone.

Other trail areas of the park will also be open for dog owners to use, where dogs must be on leashes. All visitors are required to clean up after their pets.

Dog parks are growing popular, Ernsberger said, in part because some dogs do not have fenced in backyards. The parks also provide a social opportunity for canines and humans alike.

"It gives them an opportunity to give their dogs a chance to socialize, but even more important, it gives people a chance to socialize," Ernsberger said. "It's important on the human side and it's important on the dog side."