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Volunteer leader steps down after helping Dog Park become 'world class'

Surrounded by upgrades he was a part of, outgoing Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park President Ron Buchanan stands in the park recently. On his right are stations dispensing clean-up bags. The three structures in the background behind him are the start of the dog memorial.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Ron Buchanan, a volunteer who guided multiple major improvements at the Bear Creek Dog Park over the past 11 years, announced in August that he's backing off from his leadership role.
       “I love dogs, but it's time for me to move on and let somebody else do it,” the retired Red Cross worker and president of the Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park said in an interview.
       Why not stay on till that happens? “My feeling is, if I don't get out of the way, people won't step forward.”
       So far, nobody has done so - although he has had a few inquiries. He emphasizes that he still supports the facility and is ready to help with any transition. “We are now a world-class dog park, one of the finest in America,” he wrote in his August announcement. “I hope it continues to improve. And I will be there to support future leadership. But now, that will be up to people other than me. Will you be someone who helps?”
       Free and open to the public from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, the 25-acre off-leash facility is just west of 21st and Rio Grande streets, bordering Bear Creek Regional Park.
       With more than 100,000 people a year now bringing dogs there, the park is “the most used facility in our park system,” according to Tim Wolken, whose Community Development Department includes the county's Parks Division.
       In a recent interview, Wolken lauded Buchanan's contributions, calling him “one of the most dedicated and passionate volunteers that I have had the pleasure to work with. Ron deserves significant credit for helping to
A recent scene in the Bear Creek Dog Park shows a variety of dogs (and people). The proven theory is that dogs off-leash get along better because they feel less territorial. The fence on the left separates the larger park from the 1 3/4-acre small-dog area (25 pounds or less).
Westside Pioneer photo
develop Bear Creek Dog Park into one of the finest dog parks in the country.”
       Started in 1996, the park was initially an open area with some trails, incomplete fencing (leading to dogs getting hit by cars on 21st Street), no amenities and a small gravel parking lot.
       Believing that the county could use some help - and seeing increasing numbers of park users - Buchanan and other dog owners came together to form Lovers Of Off-Leash Parks (LOOP) in 2004 (later renamed Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park). In general, “we do things they [county workers] don't have time to do,” summarized the Skyway resident, who owns three dogs himself.
       The group has also worked with the county - through fundraising, planning and/or physical labor - on the following significant upgrades over the years:
       · Stations with cleanup bags.
       · Full boundary fencing (which Buchanan called “probably the longest, hardest work we did”).
       · Separate “small-dog” area.
       · Paved parking lot with added spaces.
       · Restroom, with heat and electricity.
       · Small, fenced-in “kennel” next to the restroom.
       · Drainage improvements on the site.
       · Surrounds for several trash cans.
       · Drop structures in adjacent
In 2012, a $280,000 El Paso County Parks project at the Bear Creek Dog Park (funded by a grant and county development fees) included the addition of a restroom (background, with green roof) and creek stabilization work (right) that included the creation of dog wading pools.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Bear Creek, creating wading pools for dogs to play.
       · Dog memorial (in progress).
       · Annual cleanup days, including “Ghouls and Stools” and “April Stools,” in which dog owners who use the park are encouraged to help out.
       A feather in the cap for both the Friends and the county was Dog Fancy magazine naming it one of the top 10 dog parks in the country (leading to the “world class” description).
       The last major project for Buchanan has been the memorial, in which people will be able to buy space on a monument in the park to commemorate their dogs who have died. Earnings will help pay for future park maintenance. After that, Buchanan doesn't see the immediate need for major new projects - which leads to one of his reasons for departing. “I'm a builder, not a maintainer,” he said.
       He elaborated that the park “has been the most significant thing in my life for the last 11 years. I've had a lot of help, and they know who they are and I've thanked them. But it's time for somebody else to put their mind on it.”
       Still, there is cause for some concern about the park's future, at least from a volunteer-participation standpoint. In addition to coordinating, recruiting and leading projects, Buchanan has served on the DPAC (Dog Park Advisory Committee) - an eight-member group that works with Parks staff. “There are already two vacancies on the DPAC and mine will be a third,” Buchanan's August e-mail noted.
       Carl Donner, who helped Buchanan start LOOP, described incidents, such as clogged restroom toilets or ditches needing clearing, where Buchanan has routinely gone to the park on short notice alone and done what's needed. “I doubt the county will find anybody as diligent as he is,” said Donner, who has physical limitations constraining him from taking a larger role himself. “It's been his baby.”

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 9/7/15; Outdoors: City/County Parks)

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