Chet Hobert Park in Berryville, Virginia, a popular recreation and social destination for area residents, is also now a place for Clarke County’s canine citizens to meet and exercise thanks to the hard work of soon-to-be University of Virginia freshman Daniel Judge.
Judge, who is also president of this summer’s Clarke County High School graduating class of 2012, has spent much of the year designing, fund raising and building an off-leash dog park to meet his Boy Scout Eagle project requirement.
“After having spent 6 months on this project it is definitely a relief to see it completed, but for me, all of the joy of this project will come from seeing dogs enjoying themselves in the park,” Judge said. “I’m really looking forward to opening the park this Saturday, because for the first time we will be able to see dogs in action in the park. I think at that point it will all come together for me.”
At the dog park’s official opening on Saturday, local residents and their canine companions unanimously supported and praised Judge for his work.
“This is a great addition to Chet Hobert Park because it provides a place where pets can play without a leash,” said Clarke County Parks and Recreation director Lisa Cooke. “Daniel has done a really professional job on this project.”
Parks and recreation staff member Shannon Martin, who attended the ceremony with her two dogs, a bull terrier named Chloe and a miniature pinscher called Peanut, agreed.
“A lot of people walk their dogs here at the park,” Martin said. “This is a very nice addition to our facility.”
Judge said that the effort to build the park taught him not only about the challenges of fund raising but also helped him understand how important community interest groups are in accomplishing civic improvements.
“The difficulty of having to raise the funds – we are still seeking donations – and the complexity of the approval processes surprised me. I knew that raising five thousand dollars wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but it truly was one of the most difficult tasks that I encountered,” Judge said. “The other surprise was how significant the Clarke County Humane Foundation is. Not many people appreciate just how much the Humane Foundation does in supporting animals in Clarke County. The Humane Foundation helped me to seek donations, spread the word about the dog park, and donated signs for the park. They also had experience in large projects, like building the animal shelter, and they were more than willing to share their expertise with me.”
While Judge is a dog lover himself – family pet Lucy was the first dog through the dog park gates on Saturday morning – the project was meant to satisfy the community service aspect of his Boy Scout Eagle project. Judge said that he believes that seeing his Boy Scout experience through to its highest reward will play an important role as he moves into the next stage of his life.
“Overall my Scouting experience has been very positive,” Judge reflected. “Scouting teaches young men how to live by a moral code, how to influence their surroundings, and how to take care of themselves and others. It’s given me life experience that I consider invaluable.”
Judge said that his favorite aspect of Scouting is the wide array of different subjects that it has introduced him to.
“Through merit badges and rank advancement requirements I was exposed to subjects that I otherwise would have never encountered,” Judge continued. “The merit badge that I am most proud of earning is my Insect Study Merit Badge. One summer my dad told me to choose a merit badge, one that I would normally never think of choosing, and the two of us would spend all summer working on it. I randomly chose Insect Study, and for the rest of the summer my dad and I spent every day collecting over 75 insects. We labeled them, built cases for them, and preserved them. It was incredibly tedious but I absolutely loved it. Since then I have always had an interest in entomology. So Scouting introduced me to a hobby and an interest that I otherwise would have never been exposed to.”
Clarke County Supervisor chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville), who also attended Saturday morning’s ceremony, said that Judge’s dog park project was the latest example in a long tradition of delivering park improvements through private-public partnerships.
“This is an excellent addition to the park facility,” Hobert said. “Organizations and individuals came from all directions to make it happen. I think that it’s a great example of the kind of result that can happen when citizens and government work together.’
But even though the dog park is now operational, the bill for the facility has not been fully covered by donations.
Judge said that in order to complete the dog park project in time to attend college this fall, Judge said that it was necessary to finance a portion of the project’s cost using his own funds and is asking the for public support to cover the full cost.
“I’d appreciate any help that people are willing to provide,” Judge said. “Individuals that would like to contribute to the new dog park can do so through the Clarke County Department of Parks and Recreation.”
Judge plans to study both business finance and philosophy later this fall at the University of Virginia.
View video of the dog park grand opening here: