Hopkinton boy to build dog park for Eagle Scout project

  • Cooper Otis and his dog, Brenna, pose at the future site of a dog park at Houston Fields in Hopkinton. Cooper hopes to have the first of two parks completed by June. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Cooper Otis and his dog, Brenna, pose at the future site of a dog park at Houston Fields in Hopkinton. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

  • Cooper Otis and his dog, Brenna, pose at the future site of a dog park at Houston Fields in Hopkinton. Caitlin Andrews / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 2/5/2017 7:04:55 AM

Ambitious is just one way you could describe Cooper Otis.

You could say he’s community-driven; conscientious too. Don’t forget “dog lover,” especially when it comes to Brenna, his mom’s two-year-old rescue mutt he got last year.

And, with the Hopkinton community’s help, all these traits will soon be memorialized in a tangible space that everyone who shares Cooper’s love of dogs will be able to enjoy – two dog parks at Houston Field, one for little dogs under 15 pounds and one for dogs bigger than that.

The parks are part of Cooper’s Eagle Scout project, the last of several requirements a Boy Scout must complete for the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America program. Getting this far is no easy feat, as scouts must earn 21 merit badges and serve at least six months in a leadership role in their troop, in addition to their project. Since the scouts were founded in 1912, only 5 percent have ever achieved this goal, according to the National Eagle Scout Association.

It’s a challenge that can take a scout all the way up to their 18th birthday to complete, something Cooper doesn’t have to worry for awhile – he’s 15. But don’t expect him to take his time, as Cooper’s gotten this far in only four years of scouting. And if all goes according to plan, the first of his parks will be open to the public in June.

A doggone mess

Like many people in town, Cooper frequents Houston Field to enjoy the green space and to play soccer. Like many people, he’s also used to watching out for stray dog poop while on the fields, a result of people not cleaning up their pet’s messes.

“It’s like, you’re responsible for your dog, and that’s a part of your dog,” he said. “You should take care of it, but people don’t.”

People’s bad behavior was just one of the reasons Cooper decided to build a park. It turns out a pack of dog lovers live in town; more than 1,300 dogs are registered in Hopkinton, roughly one-third of the town’s population. When Cooper’s neighbor, who owns several dogs, mentioned in passing he should consider building a space for dog owners to go, he knew he had a solid idea.

Park goers and the undersides of their shoes won’t be the only ones who benefit. Cooper said the park will give dogs a place to socialize, a big part of developing their manners and mental health. And owners will get a place to hang out, too.

“It’ll essentially create a new social spot for dog owners,” Cooper said.

Dogged determination

To begin, Cooper needed the approval of Hopkinton’s parks and recreation department and the buildings and grounds department, who will be overseeing the construction and maintenance of the parks, as well as providing doggie bags for owners to clean up any mess.

Then, he had to research. Turns out, there’s a lot that goes into creating a dog park, such as what materials to build with and whether to fill them with grass or gravel. There’s even a reason behind creating two different dog parks – big dogs and little dogs don’t always get along, Cooper said. And even if you have the most well-mannered canines around, there’s still the chance the bigger dog will give smaller dogs a rough time, such as if they accidently mow one down during a game of fetch.

“That surprised me, about the two different dog sizes,” he said. “I didn’t think to separate them.”

Once he had a plan, Cooper had to get his project approved by the Eagle Board of Review, and the town select board, too. He brought them images of his parks, which will be roughly 30 by 60 feet for little dogs and 50 by 150 feet for the bigger park. He also had a breakdown of the cost: $10,000 for two parks, with the little dog park costing around $3,000. 

How’s the money going to be raised, you ask? Cooper’s hoping the dog-loving community will wag their tails in delight and help out with fundraising. He figures if everyone contributes $3 to $4 per registered dog, that’ll take care of the majority of the cost. 

So if you want to put your money where your mutt is, here’s how: Donation jars will be located at local pet stores and other pet-related businesses, such as Paws on Pine, a doggie daycare in Hopkinton. Cooper is also thinking of holding a breakfast fundraiser, put on by his troop.

If you want to reach out to Cooper directly, email hopkintondogpark@gmail.com, which will serve as his fundraising contact until he puts up a website on the project. He’s not sure when that will be, but given how fast things have come together, you can be paw-sitive it’ll be posted soon.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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