Freedom Barks Dog Park will host a Respect Your Park Day cleanup on Saturday, the first of two this year.
Originally called Pup Day, the event was changed to emphasize the message of caring for the local environment. Held for more than 10 years in April and October, Respect Your Park Day is organized by Freedom Barks Inc., a small, volunteer-led nonprofit that assists Medford Township in maintaining a clean and safe environment at the dog park.
The area was originally set up under the Green Acres program that allowed township officials to create the dog park within Freedom Park’s boundaries. A Freedom Barks’ committee that consists of dog-park patrons who volunteer their time helps maintain the grounds.
“We just give back to the park completely,” said Becky Walker, co-chair of the group.
Field sponsors and local businesses Village Veterinary Hospital, Scafidi, Cranston & Associates LLC, Lower Forge Brewery and Champs Dog House help the committee with fundraising and keeping the park clean of dog waste. The veterinary hospital and Champs also helped Freedom Barks with its March 26 event, Off the Leash Dog Truck, where a mobile vehicle provided treats.
Walker and committee co-Chair James Williams – who run a dog-training business together – are in charge of volunteers for the Respect Your Park Day cleanup. After discovering the dog park during COVID, Walker encountered committee President Gwen Allen, who noted that 2020 attendance at the cleanup went down, but mostly recovered last year.
“A lot of people have told us that the fact that the park was open (during the pandemic) and it was an open space, it actually helped a lot of people get through COVID,” she noted. “ … They looked to the park as that little piece of humanity they had.
“It’s just a beautiful place to walk around and kinda clear your head after being locked up.”
During Respect Your Park Day, volunteers and committee members trim trails, fill holes, paint and repair bridges, pick up litter and help with agility equipment. Volunteers are encouraged to bring gloves, pruning shears, and a shovel or rake and to meet at the bulletin board in Blue Squirrel Field for assignment to park trails.
“Summer is the most popular time for the parks,” Walker noted, “so we want to make sure everything’s good, sturdy [and] safe.”
Hours for Respect Your Park Day are 8 a.m. to noon; rain date is April 30. located at Freedom Park in Medford
For more information on Freedom Barks Dog Park visit freedombarks.com