Sunnyside Dog Park in Fitchburg

The new Sunnyside Dog Park in Fitchburg should open for its four-legged residents in late spring or early summer.

Tails are wagging all over Fitchburg as organizers and supporters of the city's first off-leash dog park announced the park could open by late spring.

Sunnyside Park, a homage to Maxine and Karl Wilke and family, who opened the Sunnyside chick hatchery on the dog park's site back in the 1940s, will be at Fish Hatchery Road and Irish Lane.

The Fitchburg City Council approved the dog park in March of 2017 and construction started shortly thereafter, but equipment problems and bad weather delayed development of the park until this year.

Jake Johnson, who founded Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates and spearheaded fundraising for the park, said fencing will soon be installed, trees planted and other features worked on as the ground thaws.

Grass will be planted, so it's basically up to the weather before the grass is firm enough to allow the park to open.

"We are shooting for late May or early June, but weather will ultimately determine how quickly we can get everything in there," Johnson said.

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The dog park will actually have two areas, the larger park for larger dogs and a smaller fenced-in area for smaller dog, puppies or dogs in training or too timid to hang with the big boys.

The overall park area is four acres big with a third-mile of trails, including a tunnel through woods.

"This was designed as an everyday dog park that people can walk to," Johnson said. "It's not as big as the huge Dane County parks, but it's central in our city, on a gorgeous and historic piece of land surrounded by old growth hardwoods."

The initial fundraising goal of $50,000 set by Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates was reached, and the amount will be matched by city funding, so a new goal of $60,000 would allow for the installation of crushed stone or blacktop paths in the park, instead of mowed paths currently in the plan.

There currently are about 20 off-leash dog parks in Dane County, including eight in the city of Madison and seven in Dane County parks, as well as parks in DeForest, Sun Prairie and Middleton.

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