EPHRATA — Barking and panting are not sounds you normally hear at an Ephrata City Council meeting.

But this week’s meeting wasn’t an ordinary meeting, either, as the council met — in the dog park — to inaugurate the new off-leash dog park.

“Dog parks are not just for dogs,” said Ephrata Parks and Recreation Director Traci Bennett. “Dogs love their people to be with them, so I hope this is super social.”

Bennett said the one-acre, fenced-in park — half reserved for big dogs and half for “small dogs and shy dogs” — took about a year and a half to build, and came about because of a suggestion from a city resident.

It also comes with some non-functioning fire hydrants. The park, which is located just south of the city’s Splash Zone water park at A Street Southeast, came in about $1,500 under the $25,000 that was budgeted, Bennett said. She also worked on Yakima’s off-leash dog park, and said she learned from some of her mistakes with that project.

“Don’t do it less than an acre,” she said. “It’s easier on the turf when they have more room to run.”

And the dogs came, with their owners, to run and catch and spend a little time outdoors on the hottest day of the year so far.

“I came here from Colorado, where we have a bunch of dog parks,” said Brian Dubois, whose dog Nala was playing catch with some neighbor girls. “It’s nice to have a place here instead of having to go to Moses Lake.”

After the city council meeting, which lasted all of 10 minutes, City Administrator Wes Crago said he was pleased with the new park.

“It’s great. It’s low maintenance, high popularity, and it was inexpensive to build. A combination of all the things I love,” he said.

While the dog park is now open, Crago said it’s still not quite finished. The park needs more signs, more shade, more water, and even some agility runs.

“We’ve been looking at other dog parks,” he said.

One patron, the owner of a pit bull named Chloe and a pit bull mix named Whiskey, said this was a safer place than the fields on the Port of Ephrata, where her dogs would often tear off after rabbits or even once came nose-to-nose with a coyote.

“I’m so grateful we’ve got this going,” she said. “We’re going to use this as much as we can.”

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