Bark For Your Park

Community support sought heading into contest finals
Jun. 17, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Sanford remains in the running for a new dog park after making the final round of PetSafe's "Bark For Your Park" contest.

PetSafe announced the 15 finalists in the online voting competition on June 13, and Sanford was the only city from North Carolina to make the cut. The city that gets the most votes will receive $100,000 from PetSafe to build a dog park.

Kelly Miller, Sanford's public information officer, said four $25,000 prizes also will be awarded. Three of them go to the city in each population category (small, medium and large), and one goes to the winner of the "Bark from Your Heart" award.

"If you get the greatest percentage of your population to cast a vote," Miller said, "then you get your own category — Bark from Your Heart. It means you weren't the top overall or the top in your category, but you had the greatest amount of people engaged in the contest. I think we can win Bark from Your Heart."

Lee County Parks and Recreation employee Lora Kelley agrees that Sanford has a good chance of taking home at least $25,000 if people continue voting.

"Overall, we're in eighth place among the final 15," Kelley said. "In our population size, medium, we are in fourth. We're going to have to reach people in groups outside of our community. You don't have to live in Sanford or North Carolina to vote for us. You just have to be a U.S. resident over the age of 18 and adhere to the contest's code of conduct."

Sanford had around 800 votes by Monday. Waverly, Iowa, was in first place overall with more than 3,200 votes, and Sulphur Springs, Texas, led the medium category with a little more than 1,600 votes.

"One thing that sort of set us back was that they announced the finalists on the Friday before Father's Day, and people were out and about," Miller said. "So we are sort of behind the ball. I think we will catch up. And we've done that. We've shot up the chart.

"We just have to keep getting more people involved and get them to commit to voting every day."

Lee County Parks and Recreation Director John Payne said he was impressed with the way Sanford residents united to get the city into the final round.

"This community is very giving," he said. "You express a need, and they're willing to roll up their sleeves and do whatever is necessary to get something done. That's what makes a community."

"It's nice to see the community get together and get behind something and show some passion," said Parks and Recreation staffer Bill Shuey, who has worked alongside Kelly in networking and getting the word out about the contest. Sanford needs a dog park to get people out into the community. A dog park not only brings dogs together, it brings people together as well."

Miller said she believes one of the key factors in helping Sanford win the contest is spreading awareness of where the money is coming from and how it can be spent.

"This isn't skate park money," Miller said. "This isn't taxpayer money. It's not like we get the money, and we can spend it on whatever we want. It's for a dog park. And if we don't get it, someone else will."

Kelley said Sanford's progress in the contest so far has been a joint effort, and that she is humbled by the amount of community support she has seen.

"It's been a community feeling," she said. "Everywhere we go, people are talking about it. They're coming together and working together. Sanford is a team network. The community has come together as a team."

Miller agrees that the community coming together is the most important factor in keeping the votes coming and receiving one of the prizes.

"If we can come together as a community, we'll win it," Miller said. "I think it would take us the rest of the way."

Each person may cast two votes per day — one at the Bark for your Park website, petsafe.net/barkforyourpark, and the other at the contest's Facebook page.