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Posted: March 12, 2017 5:00 a.m.

Have You Ever Thought… How one good idea can open the way to even more good ideas?

One great example of how one good idea can build on another is what is happening at Chimney Park.  A very special place is becoming even more special as Sandy’s Dog Park is added to what is now Chimney Park.

Chimney Park is a very special urban woodland that pushes the boundaries of the imagination.  It began with the dream to build an outdoor sanctuary especially attentive to families with children with special needs.   While maintaining that mission, it has grown to be much more. What better combination than children and dogs?

Friends of Newton Parks have led in the development of the Park.  Newton County and the City of Covington have also played a role.   Where there once stood the Martin-Paterson House,  a farm house of another era, there remains one chimney and the granite foundation.  Now it is there for one to imagine.

In the spring the Park plays host to the “Fairy House Festival” on the first Saturday of May.  In early December you can be a part of “Twilights at Chimney Park”.   This is a celebration of the Christmas Season with thousands of lights.

If you have not already found this very special place it is behind the Newton County Library and the Newton County Health Department at 7116 Floyd Street.   You can enter 8201 Hazelbrand Road in your GPS.

Chimney Park is known as the “Park with a Heart.”   Soon that caring heart will be extended to include our “best friends,” our dogs.  Someone has well stated it when they said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

Coming soon to Chimney Park, here in Covington, is a special area for dogs and those who love dogs.   Covington’s first dog park is scheduled to open this coming summer.   It will be about a half-acre in size and will be fenced in so that you can allow you dog to run without a leash.  

It will be known as “Sandy’s Dog Park”.   The idea came from the family of Sandy Elder to honor her memory with this park.   She died suddenly at the age of 52 in 2012 while on a family vacation in the pan handle of Florida.  She died of an aortic dissection.  In dealing with their grief her family turned to the idea of a dog park because dogs had always been special to Sandy.

She suffered from Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Life’s challenges were made better by her dogs.  Her sister said she had four dogs during her life.  The first was a toy poodle, named “Tiny.” Each dog that followed was larger than the last.  And each was named “Tiny.” Sandy’s mother said this was true even though the last one was about the size of a goat.

For Sandy life was a challenge.  Things we perhaps take for granted such as fine motor coordination, time management, driving a car or handling money were all challenges for Sandy.  But through it all her family along with her four-legged companions made all the difference. This love Sandy had for dogs made the idea of a dog park a very natural way to honor her memory.

There are several ways you can be a part of this new addition to our community.  You can go to www.chimney-park.com and click on “Sandy’s Dog Park.”  There you can go to the “donate to the dog park” tab and make a gift.   Of course, you can volunteer your time in helping get the area ready as well.  You might want to call Sandy’s parents, Jim and Jean Elder at 770-787-7951 and let them know of your interest in helping.  A group of Cub Scouts are working on the site on April 1 to help clear the site of sticks and branches.

As with all community projects it takes a variety of people and agencies to help make the dream a reality.   Sandy’s family is very appreciative of the support and help extended by the Friends of Newton Parks.   In particularly from that group the help and leadership given by Melvin Allen.

Among others helping with the project have been crews from the Newton County Public Works Department, the City of Covington and Snapping Shoals EMC.  Support has come from the Newton County Board of Commissioners with both Keith Ellis and Marcello Banes as chair, the Mayor and City Council of Covington along with City Manager Leigh Ann Knight.  The Elder family is very appreciative of all those who have helped.  

Soon there will be a safe place for dogs to enjoy the park just as people do now.  Of course on-leash, dogs are more than welcomed now to the park and the adjacent trail.   But with Sandy’s Park they will be able to run and play with a sense of freedom.  Rules for the use of the Dog Park will be clearly posted so that both people and the dogs will be safe.

B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.

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