Among almost 1,000 cities vying to win funding for a dog park in a nationwide online contest, Wheeling's bark is drowning out that of communities many times its size.
Preliminary voting at www.petsafe.net ends Friday, and based on current vote totals Wheeling is well-positioned to be among 15 finalists to win $100,000 to build a special recreation area just for man's best friends. A second round of voting takes place this summer, and in addition to the grand prize, four other communities will receive $25,000 each.
PetSafe takes population into account so communities like Wheeling aren't at as much of a disadvantage against large cities - but with 1,140 votes as of Friday, the Friendly City is outpacing some of America's largest metropolises. Houston, Texas, for example, had just 16 votes.
Locally, Weirton, Moundsville and Martins Ferry also have been nominated, but of those, only Weirton's vote total is in double digits. To advance, communities need strong vote totals but also must upload documentation of land availability and backing from city officials to the website.
Wheeling organizers have secured a letter of support from City Manager Robert Herron, but the proposed location for the park along Wheeling Heritage Trail across Interstate 470 from the J.B. Chambers Youth Sports Complex is not city-owned. Jeremy Morris, who organized a group of like-minded dog lovers late last year to build support for a local dog park, said the group has reached out the owner seeking permission to use the strip of land.
"It makes a lot of sense for it to be along the trail. ... If that doesn't work, we'll find another location," Morris said.
To vote for Wheeling to advance in a contest to win $100,000 to build a dog park, visit www.petsafe. net.
Using a portion of the former North Park landfill - which is city-owned - could eventually be an option, Morris said, but the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection needs to do significant cleanup at the site before any redevelopment can take place, and it's unclear how long that may take.
Although winning $100,000 certainly would make things much easier, he believes with plenty of hard work, the group will achieve their goal regardless of how the PetSafe contest turns out.
"We're working it pretty hard, and we'll see where we land. ... People are really interested in this," Morris said.
The group's first major fundraiser, "Yappy Hour" at Quaker Steak and Lube at The Highlands earlier this month, brought in more than $1,200, Morris said.