Originally Published: August 7, 2014 6:05 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Excited canines stole the show Wednesday morning as a team from the Beneful dog food brand unveiled plans for Prescott's new Dream Dog Park.
Dogs of all sizes romped through the tent area, barked and ran across the stage as DIY network host Jason Cameron and national pet expert Arden Moore outlined plans for Beneful's $500,000 make-over of Prescott's Willow Creek Dog Park.
The canine activity did little to disrupt the event, which focused squarely on the needs and recreation of dogs and "their people."
Fittingly, dog references were frequent. "You're going to have a dog park that others are going to drool over," Moore said to applause and laughter from the 100 or so people who gathered at the park.
The design follows the basic firefighter theme that Prescott resident Linda Nichols proposed when she entered Beneful's Dream Dog Park contest in 2013.
In December, Beneful announced that Nichol's design - a tribute to Prescott's 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots - had been chosen out of the more than 1,000 entries nationwide.
During Wednesday's unveiling at the dog park, Cameron outlined a plan that includes a "firehouse" entrance, 20,000 square feet of synthetic grass, a custom fire truck for dogs to play in, fire hydrants with a misting element, and fire-hose-like tunnels for dogs to run through.
Cameron, a New Jersey-based licensed contractor who has hosted several shows on the DIY network (including the new "Sledgehammer," which premiered Wednesday night), said he would oversee the construction, along with help from a Scottsdale-area contractor.
"I will be here periodically throughout the construction," Cameron said. "For me, it's a thrill. I love dogs; I've had a dog all my life."
The design works within some of Prescott's special circumstances. In consideration of the high-desert climate, for instance, Cameron said the team chose a high-quality synthetic grass. In addition, Beneful plans to save on water use by installing misting features rather than the "splash pads" used in some of its other parks.
Another of the challenges was the 2.3-acre size of the park, which Cameron said was much larger than previous Beneful projects. The design combines turf with a decomposed-granite surface.
Also central to the planning: The needs of the dogs. Moore, the author of 23 books on pets and pet behavior, said making the park safe and "dog-friendly" were her top priorities.
The Prescott project is Beneful's fourth Dream Dog Park, and many of the team members have been involved in most or all of the earlier projects, which took place in Lancaster, Pa., Alabaster, Ala., and Johns Creek, Ga.
Nicholle Connolly of Cone Communications said Beneful hopes to break ground on the Prescott dog park construction by the end of August. "It typically takes three months (for construction)," she added.
Beneful brand team member Moronke Tyler estimated that the make-over should be complete before the Thanksgiving holiday. The company plans a large public event to reveal the results to the community.
While the work is under way, the dog park could be shifted to another space, if necessary.
Prescott Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes said the city is considering using the nearby Willow Creek ball field as a temporary stand-in for the dog park. The field, which is not used heavily for ballgames, is fully fenced and could accommodate the dogs for a time, Baynes said, although the city is waiting to see the final construction schedule before making the decision.
Mayor Marlin Kuykendall called the project "a dream for the dog lovers of our community." He also emphasized the role that APS (Arizona Public Service) played by donating the dog park land to the city in April. "Without the donation of this land we would not be here today," Kuykendall said.
Nichols, who invited 40 of her friends and family to the event, told the crowd, "It's really a great day for Prescott. We're getting a park that we really need."
Afterward, she said the unveiling was especially satisfying because it signifies the start of the project. "The thing I'm most excited about is that it's getting started, and becoming a reality," she said.
Along with the renovation for her community, Nichols also won a $10,000 prize. Although still undecided about how she will use all of the prize money, Nichols said she plans to share part of it with a friend who helped with her entry video, and also plans to donate to a dog-rescue effort.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.