SANFORD — It was a big day for dogs Friday, and a big day for all those who helped create the Sanford Dog Park.

The ceremonial leash was snipped at the park, the gate was opened, and one at a time, dogs were set free from their leads in a fenced-in park created especially for them.

They romped and played and sniffed and did what dogs do on a bright, sunshine-filled morning.

Those who helped make the dog park a reality ”“ from the students in an English Language Learners class at Sanford Junior High School, the adults who assisted them, city officials and others ”“ were all on hand to witness the canine excitement.

“It’s been a labor of love,” said Edie Lacroix, who teaches the English Language Learners class.

Anny Chap, one of the students, drew the logo for the T-shirts used to help raise funds for the park. “If we build it, dogs will run,” the T-shirts proclaimed.

Chap remembers going to meetings at City Hall, as the effort to secure land for the park progressed.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Tran Truong. “We got to make a dog park and help the community out.”

The dogs appeared grateful, and happy, and so did their owners.

Sitara Malerta, who owns Ella, a Labrador mix, moved here from Portland, Ore., where she said there are a lot of dog parks.

“I’m happy to have one here,” she said.

Malerta manages the Sanford branch of Pet Life, and said customers raised $800 for the park ”“ $1 donations at a time.

“A lot of customers were really excited,” she said.

Lauren Adomaitis, who chaired the dog park committee, said she’s very excited about the park. Adomaitis used to go to Kennebunk and Biddeford to use their off-leash parks ”“ now, they won’t have to.

The park is located on city-owned land off William Oscar Emery Drive, adjacent to the Sanford Armory. It is comprised of about half an acre, more or less, surrounded by a tall, chain-link face. Inside, there’s a special area for small dogs, and one for bigger canines.

The park is open from dawn to dusk.

Students and adults alike contributed to the effort, raising funds in a variety of ways. Adira Iosua and Cassie Brown were among those who made and sold bracelets to help raise money.

There were donations, big and small, from businesses and other organizations as well.

On hand to help celebrate was Steve Jacobsen, director of the Animal Welfare Society in West Kennebunk. The Sanford Dog Park is the fourth AWS has helped get started.

“This is great. And it’s nice the city worked with the group,” he said.

Student Jamal Khiev said he has a dog at home, and would probably bring him to the park.

“This is amazing. The dogs are all happy, and the owners are happy,” said student Jordan Soeur.

“I’m really excited,” said student Ana Ortiz. “Everyone worked their hardest to get it done. Every dog gets to run here, in the dog park.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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