By Moira Blazi
On a recent gray and chilly day in De-cember, before the snow, Ron Langley and his beautiful Australian shepherd Augustus, better known as “Gus” were enjoying some quality time out in J.Neils park.
They were not on the soccer field, or the baseball diamond, or the equestrian stadi-um, they were playing in a space designed just for them, the Libby off-leash dog park
Ron and Gus have been coming here for about a year and a half, said Langley, de-spite warnings of parvo and potential dog fights, and they love it.
Although the occasional conflict can arise, it is extremely rare, because this is neutral territory, and dogs are naturally social and friendly creatures. “We don’t ever want to discourage anyone from com-ing here due to rumors of conflict”, said Langley.
“There are lots of people who live in apartments who come here because they have no yards,” he said. Among the larger dog community, the place is starting to be-come known. “There are people from Thompson falls.” he added.
Built in the spring of 2012, the space, which is beyond the soccer field at the far end of the park, was the result of lots of public input from local dog lovers. It is di-vided into a large area and a smaller area for any needed time outs and for the little ones, both sporting colorful fire hydrants.
“It was the public’s idea” said county road manager Marc McCully, but, although it was a popular idea and the dog folks just wanted “a small area”, said McCully, there were no funds in the park’s budget to build such a place.
Luckily, in the spring of 2012 the Lin-coln County road department found some time between road work to make it happen, said McCully. “It was a fill-in project. Some-thing for the crews to do if there wasn’t immediate road work available.”
The space is now administered and maintained by Lincoln County Parks depart-ment. McCully said that from August first through October first, there are mainte-nance personnel assigned to the park, but as most of the park’s patrons know, respon-sibility for poop clean-up lies squarely in the hands of the dog owners themselves. People do really care about the place, he said “awhile back, somebody stole the small fire hydrant, so I put an ad in the paper, and it was returned.”
Also out enjoying the park on a chilly November day was Nicole Watson and her brother and sister Siberian Huskies, Jackson and Maya.
“As people moving back into the com-munity, we were thrilled to see this park”, said Watson. “I love letting my dogs run in a safe environment, and this is a good place for dogs to socialize.”
“If they didn’t have a place to run, they would just get into more mischief”, Watson said.
Janet Ehrke was also there with her dog Lily, a pretty white labradoodle, when I was there interviewing patrons.
“I appreciate the interaction my dog gets here,” Ehrke said.
The park is maintained and cleaned by the human users, who often plug holes that were dug under the fence with rocks, and pick up trash as well as the leavings of their furry friends. Based on all accounts that day, they are glad to do it.
The dog park is located at the far north end of J. Neils park, and is open during park hours. There are no fees for its use and there are no regulations other than a re-quest for owners to pick up after their pets.
Ron Langley and Gus at the off-leash dog park located at J. Neils Park in Libby. Photo by Moira Blazi, The Montanian.
Local dog park brings joy to many