Sheri Samson
Pastor Robert Cox, left, joins Vietnam Veteran Jon Johnson at the newly built dog park inside Veterans Park. Johnson was instrumental in getting the area built to give animals their own space to stretch their legs while protecting the monuments.

As a dedicated Marine, serving during the Vietnam War years, Hawthorne resident Jon Johnson visited the local landmark of Veterans Park for a place of solitude and reflection. Sitting among the monuments and the many tributes within the framework of the park’s structure, Johnson admitted being disheartened by the disrespect he was seeing as visitors allowed their dogs to run freely.

“They just let their dogs use these monuments as if they were fire hydrants where these pets could relieve themselves. They weren’t even picking up after their dogs and to me it was becoming more of a dog park than a tribute to my military comrades. It wasn’t the dogs fault, but it wasn’t right either,” Johnson expressed.

Attempting to find a solution to the issue, Johnson came before the Mineral County Commissioners less than a year ago, requesting that a dog park be built and designated for pet owners to use. The effort to bring respect back to the military monuments and to create a place of honor and dignity toward the Veterans, Johnson was successful in gaining their support. He committed to raise a portion of the cost through local donations and was given the encouragement of Eric Hamrey, the Maintenance Director for the county. The two were instructed to work toward the goal of creating a specific dog park within Veterans Park.

Monies came from private donors and especially through a donation can set up at Maggies Once More Restaurant. Donations ranged from pocket change to one individual donating $500. The eventual contribution totaled $900, which endorsed Johnson’s passionate concern and showed his effort was supported by many residents.

Recently, Pastor Robert Cox, from Bethel Baptist Church, joined Johnson at the newly built dog park to provide a reverent prayer of blessing upon the endeavor and to those that assisted or would visit the park in the future.

The dog park is now positioned as a spacious, fenced-off area in the back corner of the park. Two entrance gates are provided, as well as a covered picnic table offering seating. Sanitary pet bags are provided on stands, as well as designated signage that greets visitors at every entrance and throughout the park’s layout. A grassy area with large, decorative rocks created an open space for dogs to run.

The friendly Hawthorne sign beams down upon the area. This historic sign, entitled “The Pillar of Light” was dedicated within the park 21 years ago, on March 1, 1997.

As soon as the dog park was properly installed, travelers and locals began using the appropriate section. This featured area has been well-received by patrons of the park, with many residents commenting that it provided a more positive environment for those with pets.

“I did this for our military family of soldiers. After all, we are America’s Most Patriotic town, right? If you served, then you deserve. This park is a symbolic place for our Veterans and something we can be proud of in this town,” Johnson shared.