Fort Smith will soon have an off-leash dog park.
Anna Gervais, owner of Northern Hound Supplies, is spearheading the project. She has about an acre of land on the lot next to her store and has set up fencing and grass for dogs to play in a safe environment.
Gervais launched her store in the fall of 2019. The business sells pet food, toys and other supplies, and offers grooming services. Gervais is well attuned to the dogs of Fort Smith, and said there is “a huge need for the park.”
“People are driving 20 minutes out of town just so their dog doesn’t find anything to chase,” she said on why she decided to launch the park.
The dog park, set to open on Oct. 11, is free to use, though a $2 donation to the animal shelter is encouraged.
As an arm of NHS, the park is ultimately a private facility. Insurance regulations therefore mandate proof of vaccination prior to park use, and that owners call ahead to reserve a 15 to 30 minute time slot on the day of their choice. No other dogs will be allowed in the park during a booked time slot, unless participants choose to invite other dogs to their reserved park time.
Within the park’s fencing there will be picnic tables, poop scoops and running water.
“This is an amazing outdoor space for recall training, throwing a ball, or just to walk around with your dog off leash and not to have to worry about running into other dogs, people, or vehicles,” Gervais said in an NHS Facebook post announcing the park’s opening. “We hope people use this space responsibly and joyfully, hopefully getting more of the Fort Smith doggos out to play.”
Alexa Crawford says her and her Dutch shepherd Hazel look forward to making use of the park.
“People have been asking for this for a long time and no one really took it on,” she said.
On why it has taken so long for a dog park to come to Fort Smith, Crawford suspects residents assume there wouldn’t be a need since they already “live in the bush.” She said, however, that the trails are populated with ATVs and lots of other dogs. That may create challenges for dogs with trauma or who have trouble around other canines, she said.
Crawford calls NHS’s new dog park “fabulous.”
“Anna finds a hole in our community and she just fills them,” said Crawford of Gervais.
“She’s doing everything she can to streamline it and make it accessible and this isn’t even a paid service,” she said. “We’re all just taking pride in her entrepreneurial journey.”
Once open, the park will operate seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Of the pets that have tested the space, “the dogs hit the grass and immediately get the zoomies,” Gervais said. “It’s really cute and hilarious.”