Plenty of Benson’s four-legged residents were present on Tuesday for the town’s official opening of its new dog park, situated just east of Interstate 95, near the intersection of East Main Street and South Walton Drive (Highway 242).
The crowd, in their winter coats and collars, gathered first at the nearby Char-Grill restaurant to cut the ribbon inside, then made the short walk over to the park with their furry family members in tow.
“Today is a great day for the local businesses that exist at Exit 79 and the visitors that frequent our exit,” said Mayor Jerry Medlin, addressing the crowd inside Char-Grill. “As we open the Benson Dog Park, many people and pets will be impacted by this improvement.”
“We anticipate 200 to 400 visitors a day to stop by the Benson Dog Park. This park will serve as an economic driver for the entire interchange,” he explained.
Mayor Medlin thanked the many people and organizations that collaborated to make Benson’s dog park possible: NCDOT for the 3.5 acre lease, Donna Bailey-Taylor and the team at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau — a major portion of the $35,000 park was funded with a JCVB grant, Brenda Daniels and the ElectriCities Economic Development Office from which Benson received a $4,000 economic development grant to complete the project, Tim Robbins and Benson’s Public Works team for guiding and performing the construction, and Jamie Guerrero with Morris & Ritchie Associates of NC for the park’s design.
A second ribbon cutting featuring the stars of the morning — the dogs — was held at the main entrance to the park’s two sections — a 1.49-acre play area for larger dogs and a .44-acre swath for small dogs.
“Today is a great day,” said Benson Town Manager Matt Zapp, watching a few dogs from the crowd disperse into the fenced play areas. “Since we announced this, I’ve been getting at least one question a day about when it would open.”
“It’s nice to see everyone out here this morning with their animals,” added Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin. “We know this is something the people were excited about and we’re thrilled to be able to provide it for them.”
Light refreshments were on hand for the morning, including cookies in the shape of bones from Jenny’s Sweet Creations, and, of course, plenty of dog treats.
Constructed alongside the Hampton Inn, Benson’s new dog park is sure to be a hit with residents and travelers alike, said Mr. Zapp. Signs along Interstate 95 are already up, informing motorists and their furry sidekicks of the park on their route. “We want you to stop in Benson, get something to eat, get a cup of coffee, and let your four-legged family member stretch his or her legs for a bit,” he said with a smile.
Benson’s Dog Park is located at 308 South Walton Drive, next to the Hampton Inn. The hotel is projected to open this spring.