MARION, Va. — You can bring your dog and head up to the hill to a grassy spot.

Then take off the leash.

And let your dog run free!

Marion’s new dog park is now open.

It sits about halfway between Hungry Mother State Park’s boat ramp entrance and U.S. Highway 11.

Located along Callan Drive, near its intersection with Park Boulevard, the $8,000 dog park was funded entirely by donations, large and small, from more than 40 donors, said project leader Ken Heath.

It’s open dawn to dusk.

Originally, the dog park was slated to stand downstream along the Middle Fork of the Holston River at a park near U.S. 11 and the Holston Hills Community Golf Course.

But that changed, Heath said.

Some complained about the possibility of barking dogs near the golf course.

“There were a couple of concerns raised,” Heath said, “so I asked Town Manager Bill Rush for another option.”

Turns out, a new development near the Emory & Henry College campus in Marion was designed to be “a lifestyle development, with walking trails, ball fields, an amphitheater, housing and support services on the property,” Heath said.

“So the dog park is an excellent fit,” Heath added. “The exact parcel belongs to the town, so crews would be mowing it anyway, so there’s not an extra penny of taxpayer money being spent on it.”

For Heath, who helps develop business opportunities for the town, this project really hits home.

Heath had two big dogs, Sadie and Sophie, for nine years. But he lost these twin yellow labs just weeks apart due to hereditary kidney disease.

“This park is in their memory, and to the memory of fine, fine dogs we all have loved and lost,” said Heath, who’s in his 50s. “My grief inspired my passion, and this park is one way we all can remember loved pups that have gone before us.”

The park includes fencing.

“And the fencing offers a sally port to have gated access to unleash your dogs, with a smaller side for pups under 40 pounds and a larger side for big dogs,” Heath said.

“We’ll be adding a memorial wall, benches, and other amenities as we fundraise,” Heath said. “And, if it’s as popular as I hope, we’ll look for additional locations and funds for another one down the road.”

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