This is my friend Jim Welles with his dog, Jake. Jim is an icon here in Vero Beach.
When he was growing up in Chicago, his parents always loved dogs. Jim was no different, enjoying the companionship and loyalty of a great many furry friends over the years.
In 2009, he began taking his dog, Red – a fox red Labrador Retriever – to the stretch of land along the river behind Bob Summers baseball field on Indian River Drive. This is a grassy area owned by the City. It was unfenced but still frequented by dogs and their owners for many years. Very often, the conversation at this “not-quite-official” dog park was about how the city might take away the use of this land for dogs and earmark it for something else. There was always a little bit of unease permeating the whole experience. The city of Vero Beach did not seem to offer friendly places for people to bring their pooches.
Jim soon realized there was a real need for a legitimate, fenced, off-leash dog park. He began working tirelessly to achieve this goal, approaching the City Council and Recreation Department with his idea, rallying the community to sign petitions, and commissioning professionals to help him put together a workable proposal. In April 2014, after five years of hard work and perseverance, the city agreed to a 10 year lease and his dream became a reality. Vero’s only free, fenced, off-leash dog park was established.
Delighted by the outcome, Jim carried on as President of the dog park’s Board of Directors for another year. Recently he decided to step down from the board, but remains active in his role as visionary, pioneer and fund-raiser. As the individual behind bringing this dream to fruition, the Board has bestowed upon him the title of President Emeritus with no term limit. Today, the park is safely fenced, trees have been planted, benches and sun shades have been installed. The area is being enjoyed daily by hundreds of dogs and their owners… all because of one persistent visionary who followed his dream.