By Emily Williams
A green space dedicated to dogs was celebrated Aug. 30 at Cahaba River Walk. The event was the culmination of a project conceived by Mountain Brook High School students.
The students collaborated with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to create the half-acre park in the Cahaba River Walk on Overton Road.
Current Mountain Brook High School students Weesa Keller, Will Krueger, Alice Monk and Charles Nicrosi developed a proposal for the park as part of their requirements for Leadership Mountain Brook.
“At the beginning of the school year, we were splitting into groups and coming up with ideas for great projects to further develop our city when Alice proposed the dog park and we all just loved it,” Krueger said.
After adopting the idea, the group conducted interviews around town, gauging community interest.
“While these interviews showed us that the park was needed and would be used, we had no idea how much of a success it would be,” he said.
The group had to come up with a plan, research, compile a proposal and present it to the City Council just as any petitioner would have to do.
“I’m not going to lie, at first this project seemed a bit over our heads. We had to find a location, decide how large it needed to be, get price quotes, get the project approved (by the council and the parks and rec board), and then raise the needed funds,” Kreuger said. “Each step being even larger than the last.”
According to Kreuger, what seemed daunting began to seem achievable as they watched their plan for the park take shape.
Finding the right space at Cahaba River Walk was a bit of an accident for the group.
They were coordinating with Mountain Brook’s Parks and Recreation director, Shanda Williams, considering a few different locations.
“She asked if we would be able to fit the park in a small section off to the side of (Cahaba River Walk),” he said. “While checking out this site we fell in love with an area just 20 yards away inside the sidewalk and realized that was the spot.”
When the group presented their completed proposal to the city council, the council members voted for its approval and Williams began working with the students on the construction of the park. The team also sought help from Ken Jackson of The Remy Fund, gleaning information from his experience creating the Remy Fund’s dog park at Red Mountain Park.
The budget for the basics of the park – fencing and gates – was $10,000. The students raised $5,000, with the remainder matched by the city. As the project neared completion, Williams added in a few extras, benches funded by citizen donations, as well as a water station.
“It truly feels amazing, especially looking back to the beginning when we honestly didn’t think that we would be able to find a location (and even) less likely raise the money and see it completed,” Kreuger said.
When all is said and done, Kreuger believes that the experience of taking part in the real-world experience of planning and producing a community park is invaluable – like many of the lessons he has learned in Leadership Mountain Brook.
“I learned more in this course getting hands-on experience on planning, approval and raising funds for a large scale project, such as our park, than I have in any normal class,” he said. “We were taught and were able to reinforce the ability to plan and propose a project.
“This is a skill set needed in almost any career and I have no doubt that what I learned in that class will help me throughout the rest of my life,” he said. “This class did not just inspire us but has prepared us for any project big or small in our future.”