Shortly after Sanford was incorporated in 1877, Henry Shelton Sanford hired Mr. E.R. Trafford to draw a plat of the new city. The city was laid out on a grid with land set aside for churches, schools, and parks. Five of the original park sites still exist today, one of which is the site of Paw Park of Historic Sanford.
In 2000, a group of local citizens led by Mike Knipfer collaborated on plans for a new use of the park site and formed the Friends of Paw Park organization. The group raised funds for creation of an off-leash park and presented their plans to city officials. Their efforts were successful and Paw Park of Historic Sanford opened in late Spring of 2001.
In late 2013 the Sanford City Commission designated “Paw Park Village,” which includes Paw Park of Historic Sanford and the surrounding area. The designation strongly conveys the City’s commitment to revitalization and economic development within this area and further supports the existing businesses and off-leash dog park. As a result of the Paw Park Village designation, the City was able to obtain funds for revitalization of Paw Park of Historic Sanford, create on-street parking, handicap parking, and 10’ trail path on Laurel Avenue. It is envisioned that the trail path will someday connect with the Goldsboro Trail to the southwest and the RiverWalk to the north. Revitalization of the park and surrounding improvements were made possible by a U.S. State Road 17-92 Community Redevelopment Agency grant, Recreation Impact Fees, and Second-Generation Tax revenues.
The new park design features masonry gateways on the north and south entrances, small dog and large dog areas, a large grass paw print with play and agility equipment, self-filling and draining dog water bowls that are controlled by sensors, fire hydrant misters, informational kiosk, benches, cans, planters, refurbished and new lighting, and public art. Elements of the Friends of Paw Park’s 2001 park fundraising efforts and sponsorships have been retained, such as walkways, lighting, and a stone fountain.
Art is an important component of Paw Park Village and three art projects were highlighted on the park’s ribbon cutting day.
Paw Park Village Community Art Project
Seminole County 2013 Artist of the Year Jeff Sonksen, known for his “Paint the Trail” art, led a community art project to paint fence panels installed on the site of a future veterinarian clinic, located directly across the street from the park. The designs were created based on photographs of community pets (past and present). The panels were painted by volunteers during countless painting parties, Alive After Five and Art Walk events. Mr. Sonksen has donated hundreds of volunteer hours to the project and worked with many pet owners to bring the project to life. Judy Sarullo (Pet Rescue by Judy) owns the property where the fence panels are installed and the art project underscores her passion and commitment for our four-legged friends.
Memorial Chainsaw Sculpture
One of the signature elements of the park is its beautiful tree canopy. Many of these trees are historic and were planted early in the city’s development. Great care has been taken to create a park plan that retains all healthy trees. When it was discovered that two trees were diseased and required removal, a citizen effort led by Commissioner Patty Mahany focused on retaining one trunk for a chainsaw sculpture. This effort proved unsuccessful due to the significant deterioration and hollow condition of the trunk. Undeterred by this setback, the donors commissioned a chainsaw sculpture of a large, reclaimed cypress trunk. Carved by chainsaw artist Mark Rice, the sculpture was “Created in honor of all of our beloved pets, past and present, who bring joy to our lives.” The sculpture was made possible by the following generous donors: Seminole Farms Trust, Mr. Christopher Kelley; G W Properties, LLC, Mr. Michael Wisdom; The Briar Team, LLC, Mr. Mike Good; Reagan Center Development, Mr. Richard Wohlfarth; 17-92 Five Points, LLC, Mr. Syd Levy; City of Sanford Planning Director, Mr. Russ Gibson and City of Sanford Commissioner Patty and Mr. Sean Mahany.
Metal Dog Silhouettes
Metal sculpture dog silhouettes welcome visitors to the large and small dog areas. The sculptures were cut, welded, and donated by Southern Technical College students Adarrius James and Brandon Linder, under the direction of instructor Jeanne Garmers. College employees Julie Herring and Mimi Diaz collaborated on design and implementation of the project. The project is ongoing and students will continue to create metal dog silhouettes to be installed along the fence between the large and small dog areas. Public Art Commission member Kim House is collaborating with the college as the silhouettes will be painted by local artists prior to installation in the park.
For more information visit www.sanfordfl.gov.
Christine Dalton is the Historic Preservation Officer and Community Planner for the City of Sanford and is a Trustee of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Christine is passionate about historic places. She teaches Historic Preservation at Seminole State College. Her interests include all things historic, sailing, teaching, mentoring, and the arts.