Picking up where others left off, an East Falls resident is taking the reins – or leash – of the effort to establish a dog park in East Falls.
Elizabeth Charlick Bray – “Lizzie” to friends – and her husband Braxton are the new heads of the East Falls Dog Park Committee, a group which aims to provide a centralized location for canines and their companions.
They will pitch their proposal to the neighborhood at-large on Monday night at the East Falls Community Council’s general membership meeting.
Among the details Bray plans to share is a 2013 “dog census” which determined as many as 53 percent of East Falls households own dogs.
“The dog census revealed that there really is a need for a dog park in East Falls,” she said.
Dollars and land
The principal challenges, she noted, consist of narrowing down locations and securing funds for the park.
There are four primary locations being proposed: McDevitt Recreation Center, a section of hill on the Philadelphia University campus, the Queen Lane Reservoir and the Inn Yard Park on Ridge Avenue. (McMichael Park is among other locations which have been floated as well.)
“Lots of people support the dog park,” said Bray, “but then there are very strong opinions about where it shouldn’t be.”
Naturally, the pros and cons vary by location.
Public locations – the parks and public lots – must be open and accessible, thus limiting controls placed upon entrance. A private location offers more selectivity, but would require more funding.
For the latter, Bray is considering a one-time membership and controlled access through a fob or pin pad, along with possibly requiring vaccination records.
“Just things that will help to make our dog park more responsible,” she said. “We also hope to get the community involved once the dog park is up and running, and hold trainings, events, that sort of thing.”
This isn’t the first effort to establish a dog park in recent memory.
In 2012, Stanton Street resident Kelly Grieco announced similar plans at an EFCC meeting. Support seemed to come from many quarters and, at a public meeting in May, Grieco and supporters began focusing efforts on locating the potential park at one of several potential neighborhood sites.
After that meeting, though, the effort stalled; Grieco attributed that to many obstacles raised in securing a location, along with personal reasons of family and a new job.
“It was more work than expected,” she observed.
Bray started in the position in September, noting that “it kind of fell into my lap.”
She was on Facebook in August, and noticed that there was a “like” page for the prospective East Falls Dog Park.
“A comment had been made asking if anyone was interested in helping,” Bray explained, “so my husband and I decided to step up and take over.”
Bray, 29, is originally from Flourtown, but her mother grew up in East Falls. After attending law school in San Diego, where she met her husband, Bray took residence in her mother’s former house on Indian Queen Lane.
“We have two dogs, and having lived in San Diego for years with the most amazing dog parks/dog beaches/dog everything, we felt really passionate about having one here in East Falls,” she said.
An uptick in interest
She has since been holding monthly neighborhood meetings to attract membership and build enthusiasm for the project; their Facebook page boasts more than 125 members.
There have been events along the way: a “Yappy Hour/Doggy Halloween Costume Contest” and two Wash Your Own Dog events at Pet Valu in Bala Cynwyd where all proceeds went to the group.
The project has also gained support, or attention, from neighborhood leaders.
While Barnaby Wittels, president of the East Falls Community Council, did not specifically endorse the initiative – which is an official committee of the EFCC – he recognized that support for the park is gaining momentum.
“There seems to be a great deal of public interest and enthusiasm for the project,” he said.
Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corp., expressed a willingness to help dog-park organizers identify a suitable location, one that is preferably not located in the business district.
While not directly engaged in the proposal, Snyder said that she will “continue to cheer them on.”
Beyond the upcoming presentation, Bray has other ideas for the park.
They include an indoor doggie “playday” at Little White Dog Daycare on Scotts Lane in January and a “night out” event at In Riva restaurant as a fundraiser.
She is also asking for people to submit pictures of their dogs around East Falls and email to firstname.lastname@example.org; a “Dogs of East Falls” calendar is being planned.
In the meantime, she’s hoping to build upon the “wonderful feedback” from residents.
“Dog and non-dog owners have been extremely supportive,” she said. “It has been a very, very great response.”
Monday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Falls Presbyterian Church, Midvale Avenue at Vaux St.