Mangawhai is going to the dogs
Canines who reside in Mangawhai will soon have a large free space where they can get in touch with their ‘inner wild dog’, a place to romp and do all things doggy-like without restrictions of harness and leash.
Mangawhai’s first dog park, Manga Mutt Park along Black Swamp Road, is due to open this summer and is a unique gift from an exceptional woman to the people and pooches of Mangawhai.
Visionary and benefactor of the dog park, Shelley Williams, says the idea is to offer a stress-free area for owners and their four legged friends.
“Dogs need a place they can jump in water, get filthy and play with other dogs,” she says. “Owners and kids should be able to play with their dogs and new dogs in an open space which is best done with other dog owners.”
A Zoologist by profession, Williams was working as Mangawhai’s resident Wild Reserve Ranger in the 1980’s when she bought 55 acres of scrub land along Tara Iti and Black Swamp Road. Unfortunately an advanced cancer diagnosis made her relocate to Auckland where she endured, and became the sole survivour out of 20 participants of a radical experimental treatment. Eventually Williams, accompanied by her 180 pound Mastiff-cross-Great Dane, Gus, headed to Colorado’s mountain ranges to heal in the high altitudes.
Returning to Northland after an unexpected 15 year absence, Williams finally came home in the winter of 2016, to an overgrown block of land and a ‘changed Mangawhai’.
“On return I saw there were not a lot of ‘dog only’ areas due to the developments,” she says. “There are the beaches and Domain but the owners still have to be on guard and their dogs often leashed.”
Inspired to make a difference, Williams made enquiries on local Facebook pages to see if dog owners in the vicinity would be interested in a canine themed park. Her post quickly went viral with over 300 responses, 700 likes and a sharing of creative ideas.
“It’s not just me who is creating this,” she says. “I’ve just made the opportunity available.”
Williams has donated twelve acres to form the park with distinct areas set up for different canine activities.
“We plan on having around eight acres of wide-open wilderness with waist-high bushes where dogs can track pukekos and run wild, an acre for group play like frisbees, throwing sticks etcetera, a space for training and another grassed area for the more mature canine and owners, a place of peace and quiet,” she says. “There will also be a central area forming a ‘runway’ for dogs to race up and down as well as an obstacle course similar to Whangarei’s dog park.”
Williams and her band of volunteers are having a break over winter but are still making plans and will resume landscaping in the coming months. Entry will be free although a ‘koha box’ will be onsite for users with proceeds going towards park upkeep. The group is also looking into setting the park up as a charitable trust ensuring the area will be protected for future generations.
“Come summer the park should be open to everyone.”
Shelley Williams would like to acknowledge a number of local businesses who have gifted to the park in various ways: Cavern Homes, Valley Vista Eco-Retreat, Parker Lime, Poland Motors, Placemakers, Mangawhai Heads Stationary & Gifts, and Rural Remix, Northern Bass organiser.
BIG IDEAS: Manga Mutt Park volunteers get creative, planning to turn this vintage telephone booth into a visitor sign-in booth. Pictured from left, partners Vic Garriock and Alton Paikea, Barry Wallace with partner Beth Stone and their French woofer. – PHOTO/Shelley Williams.