By Anne Eickstadt

On Saturday, Nov. 20, the Village of Poplar Grove officially opened its new dog park and kicked off the holiday season with its annual tree lighting ceremony. Both events were held at the Poplar Grove Village Hall, 200 North Hill St.

The grand opening for the Poplar Grove Dog Park began at 3:30 ribbon-cutting ceremony that was sponsored by the Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce. The dog park concept was thought of originally by Eagle Scout Ian Niebarger. The Village of Poplar Grove assisted with the development of Niebarger’s concept, and it is ready to be introduced to the public.

Poplar Grove Village Trustee and Village Spokesperson Eric Miller said, “Having youth involvement with the government process is key to developing our future leaders. Having that involvement allows the next generation to have a better understanding of how to serve the needs of the community in various ways. You have to register to use it and receive a fob to open the gate. There is a nominal fee to cover costs of $20 per year for residents for their first dog and $5 for each additional dog and $25 for nonresidents and $10 per additional dog. This park is a great way to foster a sense of community.”

“Four years ago my grandson started this dog park,” said Karen Neibarger. “He couldn’t make it here tonight, but he would be so proud.”

“This is a great amenity for people to use in this region,” said Sen. Dave Syverson. “As a dog owner, I can use it to keep up with my dog. Right now, you have to walk your dog on a leash and keep them restrained. When people look at communities to live in, dog parks are one of the amenities that attract them.”

Additionally, Amy Nord, executive director of the Belvidere Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “We appreciated the commitment the Village of Poplar Grove has to the community and are thrilled to see the board of trustees offering a spot for pet owners to socialize their dogs.”

Neibarger approached the Village of Poplar Grove back in 2017 with his aspirations to create a dog park. “There were a lot of moving parts to make sure Ian’s vision could become a reality,” said Owen Costanza, village president at that time. “Not only did Ian have to reach his fundraising goal, but the village purchased additional land to ensure sufficient space and brought in Region 1 Planning Council and McMahon Associates as essential partners to assist him with design planning.”

The Belvidere Board of Realtors also assisted the fundraising goal by presenting a $500 donation to help with completion of his service project.

Eagle Scout service projects are designed to encourage Scouts to become involved with planning and development; to be a leader in benefiting their community.

Ian Neibarger said, “I knew that creating a dog park was going to be challenging, but I wanted to work on a service project that would really benefit my community for the long term. I am very thankful for all the community support and motivation.”

The dog park, which is roughly 1.5 acres, is located along the Long Prairie Trail just across the street from Village Hall.

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