Belleair residents Agnes Green, left, and Wendy Arnott pose with their dogs Bailey and Hershey, both chocolate labs.
BELLEAIR – It was early and it was cold but that didn’t stop dozens of Belleair residents from showing up with their dogs for the first Bark in the Park event at Hunter Memorial Park Feb. 2.
The event, which included a walk along the bluff, was held to help re-make the park.
Bark in the Park was organized by the Belleair Community Foundation, which aims to build a new fountain in the park as part of a major refurbishment. President Karla Rettstatt said choosing the format for the fundraiser wasn’t very difficult.
“We chose the dog walk because a lot of residents in Belleair have dogs, and there are not too many social events where people can bring their four-legged loved ones,” she said.
Belleair’s Parks and Rec department has embarked on a program of improvement for the town’s more than 20 parks. Hunter Memorial is first, mainly because of the attention given it by Rettstatt and her group. She has said in the past no work will begin until the money is in hand and so far she’s pleased with what is going on.
“Financially, it is going really, really well,” she said. “After the dog walk we’ll be going out in full force contacting residents and asking them for financial help. I was absolutely thrilled that the commission and the Park and Tree Board and the Finance Board were all pleased with our concept and were in favor of us improving that park.”
On Feb. 2 Rettstatt was moving from dog to dog, booth to booth, greeting people and making sure the setup for the continental breakfast was complete. Participants would get to eat after they finished the 3/4 mile walk.
There was nothing but praise for this first time effort.
“This is wonderful,” said Brian Taylor of Harbor Bluffs. “It is really about Sophie; she loves getting out and seeing other dogs.”
Belleair friends Agnes Green and Wendy Arnott were just as effusive in their praise for the event.
“I love it, it is great to be able to bring the community together like this,” Green said. “Neighbors get to meet neighbors and the dogs get to meet each other.”
“This is awesome; it is really great,” said Arnott. “This is a great idea. Some of us already go to ‘Yapee Hour’ on Friday nights with our dogs and have a glass of wine.”
Kris Logan operates Fluffy Puppies and had a booth in the park. Her specialty is making and selling homemade treats for dogs, but on this day she was handing out free bandanas for the dogs.
“This is a first time event, but we’ll come back again if they have another one,” she said.
There was little doubt in Rettstatt’s mind as she looked around at the participants that there would be other events like this.
“It will be an annual event and we hope to expand it to other parks around town and attract attention to the parks so people can have a look at what they need,” she said.
Rettstatt said she and the other six members of the Belleair Community Foundation intended to continue to work to improve the parks all over town.
“We will continue to re-make and maintain this park,” she said. “Then we’re hoping to be able to work with the town to continue to improve all the parks in our little paradise.”
As for the Bark in the Park event, Rettstatt said it was meant to be simple with a single goal.
“This is a simple social event, not fancy but a good way to get together,” she said. “This isn’t a competition or a race, but a good chance to walk the dogs and it is a good social event.”