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7:33 PM Wed, Jan. 23rd

$500K dog park upgrade to start next month

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>Linda Nichols, winner of the $500,000 Beneful Dog Park contest, poses for a photo Dec. 18, 2013,  at the dog park on Willow Creek Road with her dog Callie.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br>Linda Nichols, winner of the $500,000 Beneful Dog Park contest, poses for a photo Dec. 18, 2013, at the dog park on Willow Creek Road with her dog Callie.

PRESCOTT, Arizona - After a unanimous vote on Tuesday, it is finally official: Prescott's Willow Creek Dog Park will be getting a half-million-dollar renovation, courtesy of the Beneful dog food brand.

The Prescott City Council heard a report from St. Louis-based representatives of Nestle Purina PetCare and the Beneful brand on Tuesday, before voting unanimously to enter a donation agreement with Nestle Purina for a $500,000 Dream Dog Park project.

"You will see dogs smiling," Lorie Westhoff, senior account executive in marking public relations for Purina, said of the final results of the project. "Our hope is that (the renovated dog park) becomes a regional destination for dog owners."

Linda Nichols, the Prescott resident who entered the Beneful contest and won the prize for Prescott, said she was "thrilled" that the project was moving forward. "This is going to be quite a dog park," she added. "I think everybody is going to be amazed. I think this will be another gathering spot in this great city."

Nichols' initial entry proposed a dog park with a firefighter theme to honor the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots. Her suggestions included having a bronze Dalmatian at the entry to the dog park, along with a red fire truck playground for agility training, and a bright hydrant water feature for dogs to cool off after running around the hot Arizona sun.

Although Westhoff and Beneful brand team member Moronke Tyler emphasized that the final plans are not yet complete, they said the park likely would draw from Nichol's original ideas.

"Linda's entry will serve as an inspiration," Tyler said, adding that Beneful intends to use the firefighter theme.

A groundbreaking is planned to take place at the dog park by about late July, the company representatives said, with the completion of the project expected by late fall. The work will take about three months to complete, Westhoff said.

Prescott Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes said that until reviewing the final plans, the city would not know how much of the dog park would need to be closed to allow for the construction.

The city has been awaiting the agreement with Beneful since the December 2013 an-nouncement that Nichols had won the company's annual contest.

Although Nichol's entry focused on the city's dog park on Willow Creek Road, details had to be worked out before the donation would become final. For instance, the contest rules required that the dog park property be under the ownership of the City of Prescott.

Since its opening in the early 2000s, the dog park has been on property owned by APS, and leased long-term to the city.

Negotiations reportedly got underway to work out the ownership issue, and in May, the city accepted a donation of 2.3 acres of the dog park property from APS.

Westhoff said Jason Cameron of the DIY network would serve as the contractor for the project, and would work with local companies, when possible.

Although designer Nate Berkus was involved with the launch of the Dream Dog Park contest, Westhoff said he would not be involved with Prescott's project.

Baynes estimated the city's cost for maintenance of the dog park at about $3,000 to $5,000 per year, although he said it is difficult to estimate until the design is final.

The Purina/Beneful donation will include the design, construction, project administration, all necessary permits, building supplies, and materials for the renovation of the dog park.

In turn, the company requires: that the dog park be free to the general public; that is be an off-leash facility; and that the city holds clear title to the land.

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