SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds came out Saturday October 21st for the Grand Opening of South Plainfield’s Southside Dog Park.  South Plainfield’s four-legged residents now have a place of their own to socialize and play.  The Southside Dog Park is located on New Market Avenue and Rio Street and is open every day of the week from dawn until dusk.

“As a dog and animal lover, I know what it’s like to have a dog or a pet and the special bond you may have,”  said CFO Administrator Glenn Cullen addressing residents gathered for the park’s much anticipated ribbon cutting.  “The TLC that everyone here may give their dog or pet is the same TLC that was used to build this park.  From the folksy sign to the mulch-shaped bone underneath it, may future dog owners and dog lovers, love this park as much as the dogs.”

“This idea of a dog park had come to the Recreation Commission maybe three or four times and it was met with, believe it or not, lukewarm reception,”  said Recreation President William Cochrane to the crowd of canines and their owners.  “We really didn’t think it was one of our priorities as a Commission, but that was before we met Councilwoman Christine Faustini, who not only proposed a dog park, but came with information and research.  She talked to other towns where they had dog parks and brought big blow up maps from Google Earth to show how it would be set up.  It was very impressive.”

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Once the decision was made and plans were drawn up to transform what had become a wasteland of refuse and rubble into a dog park, the endeavor took ten months to complete from start to finish.  The result was due to the efforts of several individuals and organizations working together. 

“Everybody has really come together to work as one,” added Cullen.  “The Engineer, Len Miller, created the design and then we sat down with the Recreation Commission to see what they thought this could need.”

“I did a concept layout and we had a couple of meetings with the town people and then finalized it,”  said Len Miller, Engineer and DPW Superintendent.  “Then we put some of the work out to bid.  It really was a combined effort with the contractors that we hired to do the fencing, to install the materials, and the stone.  We installed the flagpole with the monument on it.  We built the sign ourselves.  Our guys put up the split rail fence.”

The South Plainfield Department of Public Works worked from clean up to completion.  Borough Engineer Len Miller designed and managed the project throughout.  CFO Administrator Glenn Cullen was the coordinator and advisor of the project moving everything forward.  Recreation Director Kevin Hughes, Commission President Bill Cochrane, Vice President Calvin Gross and Commission Members supported and guided the process.  Mayor Matthew Anesh and  Council Members provided approvals and guidance throughout the project.

“DPW did a lot of the cleanup of the site before we even did any of the work,” added Miller.  “There were piles of concrete from the debris from the bus depot.  We had to get that cleaned up so it was a mess before we started out over here.  We did a lot of cleanup work, but now the dogs are happy.  Everybody’s happy.”

“Mr. Miller and the entire Department of Public Works, they really do put new meaning, an expanded meaning into what public works means,” said South Plainfield Mayor Matthew Anesh.  “Just a week ago, we had Super Saturday here in South Plainfield and today we have the Southside Dog Park opening.  Most people if you ask them what DPW does, they probably couldn’t name the top five things, but if you have just been around these last two weeks you can see what the men and women of the Department of Public Works do, so congratulations and thank you for all that you do.”

“You see a beautiful day, a beautiful facility and we thank particularly Councilwoman Faustini for what she has done, not only in this project, but for what she has done for Recreation,” added Cochrane during his speech.  “She’s only been on the Council since January and she grabbed the ball from day one that she was on the job.  She found out what we needed as a facility, not as a Recreation Commission, but as you people, as the citizens of South Plainfield need.”

Councilwoman Christine Faustini took her place at the podium to speak and thanked all of the parties involved in making the Southside Dog Park a reality.

“Good morning on this very beautiful and very special day here in South Plainfield,” said Councilwoman Christine Faustini.  “I can honestly say, I am thrilled to be here.  For many many years, this location of the new Southside Dog Park had been an eye sore.  The vacant lot became overrun with brush and unfortunately a place to dump.  When I began as the Council Recreation Liaison, the Commission put forth the question – What can we do to clean up and utilize this Open Space to serve the residents of South Plainfield?  After meeting with Engineer Len Miller, he designed a conceptual plan that looks almost exactly like what you see today.  Our Recreation Commission quickly and unanimously approved the proposed plan for our new dog park.”

With the help of her Golden Doodle, Teddy, Councilwoman Faustini opened the gates of South Plainfield’s first Dog Park, allowing neighborhood dogs to romp and play freely and safely in their very own park.

“South Plainfield has the old small town feel to it and adding the dog park just enhances that,” said Debbie Senia, resident of South Plainfield since 1992 and owner of an English Bull Terrier.  “It’s one big family, so a dog park is just natural to have and I’m so happy that they have it.  My dog is happy too.”

The Southside Dog Park is the first new park to be opened in South Plainfield in over twenty years.

“This has been a long time in the making,” said Anesh. “When I first ran for Council, one of the things we thought would have been a benefit for South Plainfield was a dog park and like anything else there’s a lot of challenges to find the right location and it’s sometimes rare that everything comes together at the right time.  But with the bus company closing down and with the town being able to clean up this location, this one became the perfect location here on New Market Avenue so we couldn’t be more excited for this.”

“We’re really excited that South Plainfield brought something new to the community.”  said Kathy Horvath, South Plainfield resident of thirty-two years.  “We have a rescue and we rescued him a little over a year ago.  He’s part Shepherd, part Golden Retriever, part Beagle and they told us part Chow, but we don’t see that at all.  He’s a really good dog.”

“We’re just really excited about it,” said lifelong South Plainfield resident Mike Billian, who brought the dog he rescued two years ago from the North Shore Animal League.  “We usually have to drive somewhere to find some place to take the dog and it’s nice to have something right here in South Plainfield.”

A number of donations also made the opening of the dog park possible.  South Plainfield Elks Lodge 2298 donated the flag pole and plague. Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) and the South Plainfield Recreation Commission donated park benches.  Stilo Paving and Excavating donated additional stone dust.  Councilman Jon Dean donated hydro seeding and Councilman Robert Bengivenga donated grass seed.

“We’ve gotten tremendous support between the Elks, Buddha’s Light International and a number of organizations that have donated,” added Cullen.

“As Elks, we are very committed to creating a stronger community,” said Janice Campos, Exalted Ruler Elks Lodge 2298.  “Usually we focus on youth activities and our special children as well as our veterans so when we were approached to help out with the dog park, we figured why not help out our fury four-legged friends!  And most of the Elks, we have either cats or dogs so we’re definitely animal lovers as you can see many of us brought our dogs down.  We donated the flag pole as well as the plaque.”

“We heard about this a couple months back when we had a meeting with Mayor Anesh and decided we would donate, being part of the community,” said Karen Sun, Board Member of Buddha’s Light International Organization.  “We wanted to give a little back so we started a collection in our own organization and it just came about.  Thanks so much to Christine Faustini.  She really helped us to put this together and coordinate the whole thing.  I really appreciate her help.  This is a wonderful town and I feel really honored to be here.  It’s a pleasure and honor to be a part of this town and go with our concept of our organization.  It’s really to do the good deeds for all and being able to be part of this.”

The dog park is an example of the enhancements that South Plainfield’s Recreation Commission continues to make.  Over the past several months, numerous projects and improvements have been made to South Plainfield with the support of Mayor Anesh and Council.

“Councilwoman Faustini was instrumental in getting the lights for our turf field behind the PAL, where the borough paid half and the county paid half,” added Cochrane. “She was instrumental in getting our wrestling mats upgraded in our wrestling room where the cheerleaders can also practice there.  So she’s done a great job for Recreation and I just want her to know and I’ve told her myself personally that we greatly appreciate it.  Recreation is one of the Cadillac organizations in this town.  We have great facilities, including the pool, the PAL itself, the programs, and it’s all in thanks to first of all Councilwoman Faustini and Mayor Anesh and the entire Council.  In particular, I want to thank our Recreation Director Kevin Hughes who has been instrumental in keeping these projects up. I want everyone to know how important this park is to our town, to the Recreation Commission and to citizens of our town.”

“South Plainfield Recreation is top notch,” added Anesh. “You can just see that for anybody that has children and has gone through some of the programs, they know that.  Our Recreation feeds a lot into our Middle School and High School Athletics so for that we are proud.” 

“The Southside Dog Park is another illustration of a valued added service, which is now part of our community,”  said City Council President Derryck White.  “However equally as important is this project transformed the eyesore formally known as Suburban Bus Depot into a well manicured gathering place for dogs and their owners. Projects of this size take time but based on the outcome, I believe it has been well worth the wait.” 

Even though the Southside Dog Park came about relatively quickly once the transformation had begun, residents were anxious and excited for the park to open.

“We wanted to open the doors now because we’ve been turning people away, but there’s going to be a number of enhancements that will continue to roll out,”  added Cullen.  “We’re going to have benches that are going to go in next week.  We have fire hydrants donated by the water department that will be installed.  We also ordered a bubbling drinking fountain for the dogs that will arrive soon.  We have some play structures that will go in.  So this is going to be an evolving park.  We’re really looking forward to it.”

“I think they enjoyed it!” said longtime resident Kathy Borgen exiting the gated play area with her panting terrier mixes, Jacks, Bandit and Belle.

“What’s so great about the park now is that even though we have a backyard, this is much more room to let them run,”  added Kathy Borgen’s husband Matt Borgen, South Plainfield residents for twenty years.  “It was great being able to see them for the first time being able to sprint across this field without having to worry where they’re going and play with other dogs.”

“The Southside Dog Park is a transformation for the entire area,”  added Anesh.  “We just look forward to the residents and dog owners, not only in South Plainfield, but around the area to enjoy this for many years to come.”

“I have two dogs, Henry and Maggie, so we’re definitely dog lovers,”  added Campos holding one of her pups in her arms.  “I personally am looking forward to coming and using it with my Henry and Maggy and hopefully they’ll make a lot of new friends.”

“So many people played an amazing part in bringing the Southside Dog Park to the South Plainfield Community,”  added Faustini.  “My thanks go out to the many heroes that made this possible in seemingly record time from concept to completion.  On behalf of the residents, both human and canine, I extend the utmost heartfelt gratitude.”

While dogs exited the Southside Dog Park play area exhausted, pausing to refresh themselves with water from the drinking fountain, Cullen added, “I’m just thrilled that future generations of residents and their dogs will be able to come here whether it be Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall to enjoy themselves.”

The Southside Dog Park is located at New Market Avenue and Rio Street and is open seven days a week from dawn until dusk.