The city of Billings Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department broke new ground for Centennial Park’s dog park on Wednesday.
City officials, Friends of Billings Dog Parks and local dog owners attended for the ceremony held on site at the corner of 32nd Street and St. John’s Avenue.
In a brief speech to the crowd, Billings Mayor Bill Cole thanked the patience of everyone involved with the funding of the newest regional park for Billings since Castle Rock Park in 1982.
Regarding the long-undeveloped field next to Freedom Church, Cole described it as a desert that would soon provide a refreshing drink of green space and recreation to Billings citizens.
Set to cover approximately 23 acres, the dog park is part of the first phase of a master plan for Centennial Park initially proposed by the Parks, Recreation and Public Lands Department in 2015. The first phase of this plan includes grading the site, installation of both an automated irrigation system and a system of interior sidewalks and the hydro-seeding of its open spaces.
The local group Friends of Billings Dog Parks has pledged $80,000 toward the development of the park along with $2.46 million approved by the city council. The group plans to use this money to fund the fencing for the park’s off-leash area and two drinking fountains.
The recent approval of funds toward the park’s development has provided optimism for the committee that has slowed down the group’s fundraising recently due to a lack of progress.
“This has been a big boost in morale for the committee,” Friends of Billings Dog Parks Committee Board Member Marsia Clausing said of the ceremony. “It’s really given us the strength to push on.”
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Clausing noted the community effort that helped lead to the park’s construction. After raising the funds for the development of High Sierra Park up in the Heights, the group made a promise to investors to advocate for construction of a West End dog park.
Friends of Billings Dog Parks plans to hold fundraisers in the fall and winter of 2019 for the completion of the dog park. The group is aiming to fund shaded areas, mobile wind-breakers and dog agility equipment for Centennial Park.
The message that resonated through Cole and the parties involved was the importance of donations to complete the project going forward. With funding not yet secured for the second phase, Billings park planner Mark Jarvis noted how the involvement of additional donors, nonprofit organizations and special interest groups will likely be needed.
“If you’re invested in something, you’re going to have to help take care of it,” Jarvis said.
The infrastructure in phase one is projected to be completed by the end of October, Jarvis said.
He provided additional details of phase two, which is expected to add two new parking lots located along 32nd and 33rd St. West, two multi-purpose play fields, a basketball/pickleball court, a splash pad and playground for small children, and a water stream connecting two pools across the new park. There is no date set for the beginning of phase two.
Additional construction for phase one includes a new parking lot that will be accessible from the corner of 34th Street West and Howard Avenue and the construction of a new restroom facility. Existing structures including the minor league and Little League baseball fields are projected to be retained and updated with new features such as backstops, fencing, bleachers and additional buildings.