Summer opening planned for new Fort Smith dog park

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,671 views 

Details of a collaborative effort by the city of Fort Smith, Sebastian County and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Area (FCRA) plans for a new dog park slated to open this summer in Chaffee Crossing were released Monday (Jan. 30).

Representatives of the three said they plan to design and construct the dog park on 24 acres on Fort Chaffee Boulevard and Taylor Avenue, adjacent to the Sebastian County soccer fields.

“This new dog park replaces the former park at the Fort Smith airport. We plan to provide a unique, fun and comprehensive landscape for Fort Smith’s furry and beloved family members. Our city cares deeply about pets. Our parks staff works hard to be inclusive and integrate the best pet amenities possible into our parks so Fort Smith residents enjoy the highest quality of life,” said Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken.

The design aspect of the park is underway, spearheaded by FCRA, which is contributing some of the land for the project as is Sebastian County.

“We are very happy to share in the development of this new dog park. The timing couldn’t be better with all of the new projects being developed in the Chaffee Crossing Historic Area, just a short walk away from the dog park site. The citizens of Fort Smith and the surrounding area are going to get a lot of value from this project,” said Daniel Mann, FCRA CEO, noting the park design process should take about two to three months and will lean heavily on community input.

FCRA and Sebastian County will each deed a portion of the property to the city, Geffken said at the Jan. 11 Fort Smith Board of Directors meeting. Once completed, the park will be owned and maintained by the city.

“Sebastian County, the City of Fort Smith and the FCRA, have a history of working cooperatively to implement projects that improve local government services for our citizens. The Dog Park continues that working relationship to implement a public park enhancement that supports our family pets for the benefit of residents in our region,” said Sebastian County Judge David Hudson.

Fort Smith’s Parks and Recreation Department will construct and maintain the park, which will be the third and largest dog park in the city. There is no set budget for the new dog park yet. Geffken told directors in January, the park would include an open area, water and trees.

“We will need to seek the board’s approval on a budget after a few options are proposed,” said Shari Cooper, the city’s public relations and communications director. “Since we are just in the beginning stages, we do not want to limit the designer’s or the public’s ideas and creativity as they work collaboratively to envision what kinds of amenities will work best at this location.”

The city also has a 1.24 acre dog park at 8204 Veterans Ave. in Chaffee Crossing that was deeded to the city in June 2021, and a dog park at Fort Smith Park, 5301 Riverfront Drive. The dog park at Fort Smith Park was completed in July 2018, according to Sara Deuster, deputy director Fort Smith Parks & Recreation. There are separate areas for large and small dogs, with each area having agility obstacles.City leaders are also discussing the possibility of another dog park closer to downtown, administration said.

Last fall, Mars Petcare inducted Fort Smith into its national “Better Cities for Pets” program, which certifies pet-friendly cities and provides ideas and resources for cities, residents, non-profits, and businesses who want to be more pet-friendly.

The Airport Dog Park, located at the corner of Massard Road and Louisville Street on the east side of Fort Smith, closed Dec. 1 because of the $22 million extension of the primary runway at the Fort Smith Regional Airport expected to begin in May. The city committed $5 million toward a $22 million project to extend the runway by 1,300 additional feet. The $22 million dollar project is a collaboration between the state, which committed the other $17 million for the project, and the city for a new military mission at Ebbing Air National Guard base at the airport.

The base was selected last year to be the long-term pilot training center supporting F-16 and F-35 fighter planes purchased by countries participating in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. It is estimated that 345 U.S. military personnel will be part of the center along with an estimated 180-plus members of the Singapore unit and around 300 dependents. Training and aircraft from Finland and Poland may also be part of the FMS site in the future.