picture by: Joselyn King
Dogs now have a new place in Wheeling where they can run free – and humans are welcome too.
The city’s second Fitzsimmons Dog Park was officially opened Thursday in an area just behind the White Palace in Wheeling Park. As the first dog park at the Tunnel Green Recreation Complex in East Wheeling, the new park offers separate areas for small and large dogs, as well as access to water, shade and benches for humans .
The park was funded through “a generous donation” from the Fitzsimmons Foundation, according to City Manager Robert Herron.
He explained that the dog park was originally intended for a location in the Elm Grove area, but that idea did not materialize. Herron and City Council members Dave Palmer and Ty Thorngate then approached the Wheeling Park Commission with the idea of having a dog park in Wheeling Park.
“As we all know, people come to this park all the time to walk their dogs,” Herron said. “It became the obvious place for a neighborhood dog park.
“People who come to the park will have a place to let them run off-leash.”
And the dog park is coordinating well with upcoming improvements the Wheeling Park Commission plans to make to the White Palace with American Rescue Plan Act funds given to them by the city, he continued.
Bob Peckenpaugh, chairman and CEO of the Wheeling Park Commission, said the commission is already interested in setting up a cafe at the White Palace. He added that most dog parks he’s seen usually have a cafe in the park, so having a dog park outside the White Palace “was a perfect fit”.
“Soon, when people come here to walk their dogs, they’ll be able to have coffee,” he said.
picture by: Joselyn King
The family of former Wheeling Hospital CEO Dr. Donald Hofreuter also helped fund the creation of a wellness walking trail in the area near the dog park, Peckenpaugh continued. And a wading pool is provided at the nearby Wheeling Park pool.
The ballroom inside the White Palace is also ready for “a refresh”, he said. This will include the installation of a larger main staircase leading upstairs.
Peckenpaugh said park officials have been thinking about what they can do to “bring the park back to life.”
“We know there are more activities we can do,” he said. “We can create more wellness opportunities for kids and we can really use this place as a place to bring back the community spirit.
“It’s a gathering place. We want more reasons for you to come back, not just to go swimming or ice skating or taking a walk in the park.
Herron and Mayor Glenn Elliott brought their respective dogs with them to the opening of the dog park. Elliott said dog parks are places for socializing — not just for dogs, but for humans too.
“Dog parks serve a dual purpose in our community,” he explained. “They bring together people from different socio-economic backgrounds, different racial backgrounds and different political persuasions.
“They bring people together around a common passion.”
Elliott added that he had met many people while taking his dog to the East Wheeling dog park, and he praised the Fitzsimmons family for their contributions to the community.
Sunni Fitzsimmons said dog parks give dogs a place to run while socializing with other dogs.
“I think it’s great for dog owners to get together too and talk about their dogs with each other,” she continued. “There are a lot of dog owners and dog lovers in the area…
“It’s about a revival of going out and meeting people.”
A third Fitzsimmons Foundation-funded dog park location is planned for Warwood, city officials said.