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Dedicated to the dogs

More than 70 dogs barked, ran and played off-leash with one another at the dedication Sunday of the Wellington Dog Park.

Among them was Dixie, a golden retriever who belongs to Tonyia Mitchell's family.

Dixie loves to run around and play with other dogs at the dog park, said Mitchell, who has already brought Dixie there four times. "As soon as we pull into the parking lot, she starts whining and gets excited."

Although Wellington Dog Park has been fenced since late August, Sunday was the grand opening.

The new 3.4-acre fenced paddock at Wellington Park, 565 Wellington Way, brings the number of Lexington dog parks to four. The others are at Coldstream, Jacobson and Masterson Station.

The opening of Wellington Dog Park also marked the completion of the Friends of the Dog Park's master plan in less than 10 years.

When Friends of the Dog Park formed in 1999, Lexington only had nine-tenths of one acre devoted as a fenced-in area for dogs to run off-leash, said Janet Cowen, president of Friends of the Dog Park, a non-profit organization that has raised at least $80,000 to create the dog parks. The Wellington Dog Park cost $17,000 to fence.

Now there are more than 24 acres of dog parks, with plans to add 13 acres in the four existing parks, Cowen said.

The work of the Friends of the Dog Park won't end there, Cowen said. The group will continue to raise money to build new dog parks in other parts of the city and to add amenities such as water hydrants to the Coldstream and Wellington dog parks, and benches for the owners.

There's a lot of interest in building a dog park at Veterans Park and in the downtown area, said Linda Gorton, an Urban County councilwoman and a board member of Friends of the Dog Park. The city has also set aside about 3 acres of land in Cardinal Run Park for a dog park, she said.

Dog parks are now one of the top 10 most utilized amenities in Lexington's parks and are one of the top 10 most requested features, according to a parks survey conducted last year, Gorton said.

The dog parks are in great demand and are in constant use year-round, Cowen said. "I'm always amazed when I go to all of our dog parks that there ever were naysayers that this would not work, that it was a waste of time and resources."

When Friends of the Dog Park began its work, people were convinced that building dog parks was a waste of money and that the dog parks would be awash with fighting dogs, Cowen said.

Occasionally some dogs will get into a spat, but for the most part they just run around and chase one another, Cowen said.