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Generous donations make dog park a reality

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Well, that was easy.

The Brainerd Dog Park Committee asked for donations to help fund its dog park just more than a week ago and by Friday, they received them.

Just before Christmas the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Board announced approval for a dog park location in Kiwanis Park in Brainerd.

“I think this is going to be a really great thing for this town,” Brainerd Dog Park Committee member Dan Hegstad told the Dispatch in a Dec. 20 interview. “And it’s going to be great for the dogs who love to run and will have the room to do it in a safe and fenced-in area.”

When Brainerd resident Bob Rudsenske read in the Brainerd Dispatch story that the park would need roughly $15,000 in donations before the park could open, he jumped at the opportunity to help — literally jumped.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Rudsenske, who said he has advocated for years for a dog park in the lakes area. “I called the Dispatch, I called everyone I could think of trying to reach Dan Hegstad (Brainerd Dog Park Committee member).”

When Rudsenske and Dan Hegstad did finally connect, Rudsenske had great news, he wanted to make a donation. A substantial donation.

On Friday morning, Rudsenske met Hegstad along with Holly Holm and Laurel Mezner, also Brainerd Dog Park Committee members, and Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer to present a check for $15,000. Rudsenske said he wanted to make the donation — for the entire amount needed to open the park — because of his love for his own dogs. He made the donation in memory of his Boston Terrier, Buster.

Buster died last year.

“He was my pal,” Rudsenske said.

Dan Hegstad called Rudsenske “an angel” for his generosity. The group met Friday at the future home of the dog park at the south end of Kiwanis Park. For Hegstad, it was the first time visiting the location, knowing it would soon be the official home of the Brainerd dog park.

“This is even better than I thought,” Hegstad said. “With Bob’s (donation) we can start digging holes as soon as the ground thaws.”

The $15,000 start-up funding will cover the cost of fencing and signage for the park as well as amenities including a waste station. Holly Holm said one of the things on the Dog Park Committee’s wish list was in-ground water, so that dog owners wouldn’t need to bring their own. It was discovered this week that the designated location is already set up for city water. Something Holm said would be a major help.

“We’re going to try to use that to our advantage,” she said.

Sailer said they are projecting a late spring opening date for the park. Sailer said in the absence of a designated dog park, residents have used other enclosed locations such as outdoor hockey rinks and baseball fields to run their dogs, something Sailer said the Parks Department discourages.

“Hopefully this will encourage people to use space designated for dogs instead of parks reserved for kids,” Sailer said.

Sailer said because of Rudsenske’s donation the upgrades needed to open the park will cost taxpayers nothing. “The entire park is paid for by donations,” Sailer said. Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the park.

The Kiwanis location reserves about 40,000 square feet for the dog park. Sailer said they chose the location because of its central location. Eventually the Buffalo Hills trail will connect through the park and meet up with the existing Boom Lake trail. “It all works together really well,” Sailer said.

Rudsenske said he is looking forward to bringing his new dog to the park when it opens. He’s a Boston Terrier pup, and just like Rudsenske’s previous canine pal, he too is named Buster.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.