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    Portion of Midtown's Overton Park really is going to dogs

    By Tom Charlier - The Commercial Appeal -

    Overton Park has been around for more than a century.

    Now get ready for Overton Bark.

    That's the name of the off-leash dog park that officially opens Saturday in the middle of the 342-acre park in Midtown.

    At 1.3 acres, it doesn't exactly dominate the landscape, but park officials expect it to attract dog owners and their pets from across the Memphis area.

    "I think the main attraction is it's located in the center of the city," said Tina Sullivan, executive director of the Overton Park Conservancy, the private nonprofit group that operates the park.

    The fenced-in dog park has two sections -- one for canines of 25 pounds and under and one for all dogs.

    In addition to agility obstacles, it will feature drinking fountains with bowls accessible to dogs. There is also an abundance of shade, with benches to be installed for pet owners.

    Waste stations, offering plastic bags and trash cans, also will be provided.

    Located on Old Forest Lane across from the Rainbow Lake playground, the dog park joins at least three other off-leash facilities in the Memphis area. The others are in Shelby Farms Park, Tobey Park and Downtown.

    Hollywood Feed, the locally owned pet-food merchant, is the sponsor for the park, which was built at a cost of no more than $175,000.

    Although the official opening is still a few days away, the park already has been getting regular use.

    "We're just putting the finishing touches on it," said Naomi Van Tol, director of operations and capital improvements for the conservancy.

    At the same time construction has been under way at the dog park, city crews have been replacing a collapsed retaining wall along nearby Lick Creek.

    The dog park is among a slate of major improvements planned by the conservancy, which took over management of Overton last year under an agreement approved by the City Council. The new arrangement allows for extensive private fundraising to help support the park.

    Already, the conservancy is nearly within $1 million of reaching its five-year fundraising goal of $6 million, Sullivan said.

    The next project, Van Tol said, will be the renovation of the now-closed restrooms at the Rainbow Lake playground. After that, the conservancy plans to expand and improve the playground.

    In the fall, restrooms will be installed at the picnic area along East Parkway, and a bicycle-pedestrian trail will be added to link the picnic area with the intersection of Sam Cooper Boulevard and East Parkway.

    -- Tom Charlier: (901) 529-2572