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New Dog Park Opens on Campus

Dog owners and their pets on campus now have a new dog park to enjoy, thanks to the work of a 14-year-old on an Eagle Scout project and the spirited support of volunteers and Stetson officials.

The park, measuring 50 feet by 150 feet, is located on East Michigan Avenue, adjacent to the University Village Apartments. It officially opened Aug. 12.

When Corey Sipe, a freshman at DeLand High, was looking for a worthy service project in his quest to become an Eagle Scout, he thought of Stetson. His father, Gary Sipe, is director of web services in the Office of University Marketing. A lover of animals, Corey initially thought about a pet food drive. Upon learning the campus was pet-friendly, the enterprising youngster turned his attention to a park.

“I saw that they had a dog park, but it was a distance away from some of the pet-friendly dorms [near Nemec Hall], so I decided to create a dog park,” Corey said.

DeLand High School freshman Corey Sipe already has made an impression at Stetson, volunteering to create a dog park on campus.

That was in February, marking the beginning of a journey filled with applications, meetings and presentations – all completed by Corey – to gain the requisite approvals from the Boy Scouts of America and Stetson, plus with the buy-in of family and friends. The Boy Scouts, for example, requires Eagle Scout projects to benefit nonprofit organizations, and the Scout must raise money to help pay for the project. While immediately enthusiastic, Stetson’s Facilities Management Department stipulated the project had to be completed by the start of the new academic year.

Like a Westminster Kennel Club prizewinner, Corey jumped through each hoop placed in front of him. “There were definitely a few bumps in the road,” he said. “It was my first time proposing. But we got it all solved out.”

“[Corey] did a wonderful job; he worked with us and he coordinated a whole host of individuals to come and work on the weekends,” said Dave Rigsby, Stetson’s manager for grounds, who oversaw the project under the direction of Al Allen, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

Stetson fronted the money for the park, to be repaid through fundraising in the coming months. Corey is hoping a park sponsor might emerge.

The park’s original land needed both vision and attention, which young Corey provided with the help of many volunteers, including staffers at Stetson.

Actual construction began Aug. 5 and totaled four days of work from volunteers. Trees were trimmed by professionals (because of university insurance), but the branches needed to be picked up. Benches and tables salvaged from Stetson’s scrap yard were rehabbed. Corey installed the fence, with a little help. There was landscaping and a myriad of final touchups. The volunteers were members of Corey’s scout troop along with friends and family, and Stetson staffers.

For student dog owners, the new park will no doubt bring smiles. There are three pet-friendly dorms on campus: University Hall and Stetson Cove in addition to the University Village Apartments – building 300. There is only one other official dog park in DeLand, Barkley Square Dog Park, miles from campus.

For Corey Sipe, a potential Hatter, there is satisfaction. Who knows, he might use the park as a student one day. His words: “It feels great.”

Also, appropriately enough at Stetson, there was education.

“I learned a lot that will probably help me later in life,” Corey said, “such as how to put up a fence, how to lay mulch and how to lead.”

-Michael Candelaria