By ALLEN RAU
Jonesborough residents will soon have a dedicated park to let their four-legged canine friends roam free.
The Town of Jonesborough was recently awarded a $25,000 grant for the construction of a dog park by the Boyd Foundation, an organization started by Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd.
Friday afternoon in front of town hall, Randy and Jenny Boyd presented the Town of Jonesborough with a large check amidst a crowd that included humans as well as canines.
“I want to say one really important thing and that is ‘Congratulations!’ “ Boyd told the audience. “There were 50 different cities across the state that were competing for these grants. So you won this, you earned it. It wasn’t something that we did just because we like you, even though we do like you!”
“We love it here,” he continued. “We were so excited when we saw the selection process and saw that Jonesborough was one of the winners. So I just want to say congratulations to Rachel Conger (Director of Parks and Recreation), to Mayor (Chuck) Vest and everybody that had a role in getting this done.”
Boyd’s Foundation funded a program called “The Tennessee Dog Park Dash,” which is dedicated to building or improving dog parks throughout Tennessee. Begun in 2018, the program goal is to turn the state into the “most pet-friendly state in America”, according to the Dog Park Dash website.
Jonesborough Mayor Vest, who was present to accept the oversized check, said, “This grant that Randy and Jenny (Boyd) have been so nice to award to Jonesborough will go a long way to helping us establish a first-class park. Everybody that knows Jonesborough, when we do a park, we do it right.”
Plans currently have the park located on three acres of property off State Route 34 on the west end of town. Amenities will include an interactive water feature for dogs, seating areas, fenced off areas for smaller dogs and larger breeds and landscaped areas where dogs can run without being leashed.
The goal of turning Tennessee into the most pet-friendly state in the country began over 10 years ago, Boyd explained.
“I went to a Petsmart charities event. It was one of those typical charitable events. They had a big banquet at the end, and the president (of the charity) gets up to speak. There’s about 50 company CEOs in the room. I’m the only one from Tennessee.
“And the president of the Petsmart charity says, ‘We’ve made a lot of progress for animal welfare all across the country this past year. But we still have work to do. You know there are still backwaters in the country. Places like Mississippi, Louisiana and ‘You guessed it,’ … Tennessee.’
“I don’t know if it was true, but it felt like every eye in the room looked at me.
“And we did some research and it turned out that statistically, they were right. I didn’t want to run from it so we decided to own it and fight back.”
Boyd said they began with the goal of making Knoxville the most pet-friendly place in the country. His company, PetSafe, also began a program in 2011 called “Bark for Your Park”, which provides funding for 13 cities across the country to build dog parks or improve their current parks.
Last year the Boyds decided to begin funding parks for communities in their home state of Tennessee through the Boyd Foundation.
“It’s $1 million a year for this year, next year and the year after. This was our first year and we’re just so excited to be able to offer grants to folks that we know,” Boyd said. “Places like Jonesborough, where Jenny’s going to probably have a house one day.”
The candidate for governor believes that dog parks are beneficial, not only for dogs, but for their human companions as well and can bring folks together.
“The great thing about dog parks is it’s not just for the pets, but it’s also great for people and to build community. In this world today, we have a lot of division and strife. We need ways to bring people together. A dog park does that,” Boyd said.
“When you go to your dog park after it opens, go to the bench and you’ll see young people and old people sharing a bench. You’ll see black and white. You’ll see rich and poor. Even, on occasion, you’ll see a Democrat and a Republican on the same bench enjoying their dogs.”