Harrison County

Gulfport is opening its first park for pooches on Wednesday

Gulfport is going to the dogs on Wednesday.

The city is officially opening the “Bark Park” at the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue at 10 a.m. The one-acre park will be open every day and features two spaces — one for large dogs and another for smaller dogs — with room to roam, watering stations, benches, pet-friendly sanitation stations, pet obstacles, shade trees and after-dark lighting.

It is the third dog park to open on the Coast. Biloxi opened a Popp’s Ferry Dog Park in 2014 and Pixie’s Memorial Dog Park in Hiller Park in 2015.

The park came to fruition through an AARP Community Challenge grant. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes heard a representative from the American Association of Retired Persons speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors about the nonprofit’s Community Challenges program, which offers grant money for short-term projects that improve the community.

Gulfport applied and earned the $12,800 grant for the dog park. It was the only grant awarded in Mississippi this year.

City spokesman Chris Vignes said AARP was in Gulfport filming during construction that will be used in a commercial for the national program. AARP is expected back Wednesday for the grand opening.

The grant money was used to buy materials for the park, including lighting, a water system, lighting, fencing, seating and the pet obstacles.

The labor was done by Public Works employees, said David Parker, the economic development director for the city.

The land is part of a 40-acre park that is being developed in phases to benefit the community, Parker said. The first phase was the community garden. A 17-acre disc golf course also is part of the property.

“Also coming is a kayak launch, nature trail and a 20-acre bike trail system,” Parker said. “It will be the only like it down here or in Mississippi.”

The park will follow the same general hours as the city’s other parks, Parker said.

“This just adds to the quality of life on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Vignes said. “Pets are like children to a lot of families. This gives them a chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors.”

The Humane Society of South Mississippi will be on hand Wednesday for the ribbon-cutting and will bring adoptable pets to the new park.

Kate Magandy: 228-896-2344, @kmagandy

If you go

What: Bark Park ribbon cutting

When: 10 a.m. Wednesday

Where: 34th Street and 8th Avenue, Gulfport

Note: Adoptable dogs from the Humane Society of South Mississippi will be at the park.