They call it The Little Dog Park That Could.
For those who unleash their pets to play at the Manassas Park Dog Park, it’s a place where friends — animals and humans alike — make strong connections. No matter that the temporary park has few trees and only scattered patches of grass. To them, it’s home.
Park boosters are now hoping that others will see the beauty in their small sanctuary. The Manassas Park Dog Park Committee has been entered in a national contest in hopes of winning prize money that could help build a new playground. And the goal may be within reach: The park is now one of 15 finalists.
“Out of 1,400 cities, we’ve made the finals,” said Matt Rosenberg, 35, a committee member and dog park regular. “We’re trying to make our own luck.”
As of Monday, the park is in 12th place and has amassed 6,772 votes in PetSafe’s “Bark For Your Park” contest. With voting ending July 31, the dog park enthusiasts are hoping they can nab the top prize of $100,000 — or be one of four finalists and win $25,000.
“This is great, but this was only ever supposed to be a temporary park,” said Rosenberg as he scanned the field, a tract of land nestled behind the Manassas Park Community Center on Adams Street. “And you look at the recession and city governments — money became really scarce, and public funding has been very difficult to get.”
The city’s Department of Parks and Recreation opened the dog park three years ago. Now, committee members say, more than 40 dogs a day visit the makeshift park. The canines run, dig and rest together, using the site’s benches and chairs for shade — they could be mistaken for littermates if it weren’t for the range of ages and breeds.
Trish Cook, 45, said she used to travel to “find a place for her dog to play.” Fairfax, Chantilly, Vint Hill, Reston, you name it, Cook — whose vanity plate reads DOGZTXI — has been there. Then the dog park opened a mile from her Manassas Park home.
Right away, she noticed something different about it.
“My dad says we break the rules here because we get to know each other, we’ve become friends,” Cook said last week. “At his dog park, he sits and reads his phone — and I’ve been to other dog parks where I look around, and the people just sit and read something or talk to their spouse or who they came with, and that’s it.”
She threw her hands up in the air and said, “When I walked in earlier, a woman who I haven’t seen in a long time came over and gave me a hug and a kiss — what other dog parks do that?”
There’s no glitz at the Manassas Park site. Paul Rubenstein, 42, said he almost walked right past the dog park until someone pointed it out to him. “This is a great location for me,” said Rubenstein, a committee member and teacher who lives within a quarter-mile walk of the park and takes his dogs Missy and Corkie.
They all say it’s the park’s strong sense of community that makes it unique. “It’s nice to see a small community come together for a cause,” said Jennifer Deuterman, marketing manager for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
“A lot of people just look at Manassas Park as a small city — but it’s a small city with a lot of heart.”
To vote in the contest, visit www.petsafe.net/barkforyourpark/city/18436/manassas-park-va.