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Czarnecki becomes Athens dog park custodian

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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media A sign near the entrance of the Athens Bunker Hill Dog Park.
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    Contributed photo Herbie, Gertie Mae Czarnecki’s 2 1/2-year-old Airedale terrier.
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    Gertie Mae Czarnecki (left) and her husband, Stephen Czarnecki.
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    Brooke McInerney’s 1-year-old Golden doodle Bailey at the Athens Bunker Hill Dog Park.
May 14, 2018 11:30 pm

ATHENS — The Athens Bunker Hill Dog Park on Union Street has a new custodian who received a glowing endorsement by one village official.

Village Trustee Shannon Spinner suggested Gertie Mae Czarnecki, of Athens, at a village board meeting April 25.

The position was previously held by Kelly Raver, of Coxsackie. When she stepped down in mid-April, village trustees began a search to replace her.

Czarnecki was interested in taking on the volunteer role last year, but Raver beat her to it, Spinner said.

Czarnecki, a nursing student, was unable to attend the meeting because it conflicted with a graduation rehearsal, but Spinner read her letter of interest during a village board meeting May 9.

“The dog park is a wonderful aspect for our community and I am more than happy to do my part to help maintain this resource,” Spinner read from Czarnecki’s letter.

Brooke McInerney, of Athens, was walking her 1-year-old female Goldendoodle, Bailey, at the park Thursday afternoon. A Goldendoodle is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a poodle, according to the SwissRidge Kennels website.

The park has a fenced in area so dogs can roam free — a feature McInerney likes.

“Not too many dog parks have that,” she said. “[Bailey] likes to run.”

Czarnecki met dog park founder Jane Kerr while Kerr was monitoring the park, according to the letter.

Czarnecki is confident she can follow in Kerr’s footsteps.

“I appreciate this opportunity to serve the village I care so much about,” Czarnecki wrote in her letter.

Czarnecki regularly brings her 2-1/2-year-old male Airedale terrier, Herbie, to the park and believes Athens has a resource most municipalities lack, she said Thursday. She adopted Herbie from the Columbia-Greene Humane Society last year.

“I think it’s worth taking the time to assure that it’s maintained and we continue to have access to such an outlet,” she said. “Aside from taking him for walks, the park is wonderful for him to meet other dogs.”

The park serves as a place for dog owners to socialize, too, because they share a common bond, Czarnecki said.

Czarnecki wants animal trainers to host a clinic at the park in the fall to promote dog ownership and training. A dog therapy clinic or dog sport club would allow pet owners to be more inclusive, she said.

“We do have a lot of people with dogs and we don’t really have any clubs,” Czarnecki said. “It would be nice to generate some activity.”

Chatter about the park being a health hazard erupted on Facebook in March, but the situation was blown out of proportion because excessive uncleanliness hasn’t been an issue, Czarnecki said.

Dog park users who care enough will pick up a bottle they see on the ground, she said.

“I’m not the dog park police officer,” Czarnecki added. “You’re always going to have people who come unprepared.”

Having a clean dog park helps because Athens is becoming a hip place to be, Czarnecki said.

“I just think having that amenity is adding more to our town,” she said. “It’s something we can cherish and be proud of.”

Spinner has known Czarnecki since she was 6 years old. Her friend is the best person for the job, Spinner said.

“I think she’s going to be really great at it,” Spinner said. “She’s already mentioned a couple of ideas for the dog park; she’s probably one of the most responsible people I know.”

Board members unanimously agreed to accept Czarnecki’s letter, which effectively makes her the town dog park custodian, Mayor Peter Alberti said after the meeting. He was happy to see the job filled in a short amount of time.

“It was good to see someone step up to the plate real quick,” Alberti said. “Dogs and their humans love the park.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.