Dog park to be dedicated to late ‘Boston Legal’ star
By Dan Moran email@example.com September 3, 2013 7:58PM
Amenities at the Justin and Alicia Mentell Dog Agility Playground located in the Callahan-Franklin Dog Exercise Area at the Larsen Nature Preserve, 1720 Western Ave. in Waukegan. | Submitted photo
Updated: October 5, 2013 6:13AM
When actor Justin Mentell died in a Wisconsin car accident in February 2010, among those left behind was his German shepherd, Meisner. This weekend, a park inspired by the “Boston Legal” star’s love for animals will open to the public with amenities believed to be the first of their kind in Lake County.
Meisner is expected to be in attendance this Saturday, Sept. 7, when the Justin and Alicia Mentell Dog Agility Playground opens to the public inside the Callahan-Franklin Dog Exercise Area at the Larsen Nature Preserve, 1720 Western Ave.
Named for the actor and his mother, who recently retired as superintendent of recreation at the Waukegan Park District, the playground was constructed on the southeast corner of the six-acre exercise area, which opened in June 2000.
Park district recreation supervisor Jennifer Dumas said Alicia Mentell was both a driving force and a “significant contributor” to the $25,000 facility, which includes 14 different play stations designed specifically for canines — including a climbing structure dubbed “Meisner’s Mountain.”
“I don’t think it would have happened without Alicia’s passion for it,” Dumas said. “She loves dogs, and she’s a trainer, too, so this was a way for her to give back to the park district.”
Though out of town this week, Alicia Mentell said in a statement that the creation of the park was a team effort.
“I am really thrilled that Waukegan dogs and their owners have this wonderful agility playground to enjoy for years to come,” Mentell said. “Friends of Justin who contributed to his memorial fund helped make this project a reality as they were partners in sponsoring Meisner’s Mountain, named after his beloved German shepherd.”
Justin Mentell, who was born in Texas and grew up in Waukegan, began acting in regional theater during his childhood and studied fine arts at Northern Illinois University. After small roles in Chicago-set films like “Roll Bounce” (2004), Mentell landed the role of junior associate Garrett Wells on ABC television’s “Boston Legal,” working alongside Emmy winners William Shatner and James Spader during the 2005-06 season.
Dumas said the concept of a dog playground in Waukegan dates back to 2007, when information on similar facilities was included in a National Parks and Recreation Association Conference. Waukegan officials liked the idea of expanding beyond the idea of a basic dog run.
“Our dog exercise area is not much more than that — just an open area,” she said. “This was something that was unique for dogs and their owners. I don’t think there’s anything like this in the county.”
Fundraising efforts began in September 2010 with the inaugural K9 Trace & Pace parade at Bevier Park, which also assisted the Beach Park Animal Hospital’s “Help-A-Pet” Fund.
Dumas said $600 was raised the first year of what became an annual event, and some $13,000 was eventually raised for the playground project through the parade and sponsors that, along with the Mentell family, included James Herring, Waukegan Fire Fighters Local 473, Waukegan Animals Getting Saved (WAGS) and Coca-Cola.
The results will be dedicated on Saturday at 2 p.m., and the park will be free and open to the public thereafter. Among the features are an 18-inch jump bar, an adjustable tire jump, an S-shaped tunnel, hurdles, weave poles and a teeter-totter. Dumas said the equipment was built with traction pads for canine paws and, though the park might resemble a competitive obstacle course, was designed with recreation in mind.
The first 150 people attending the dedication ceremony will be given a commemorative T-shirt, and the first 100 dogs will be given a bandana. Gift bags will also be handed to the first 200 dog owners by Pet Supplies Plus.
Dogs attending the event must be leashed until inside the exercise area’s gates. Leashes must also be used during the dedication and a demonstration portion. According to the park district, aggressive dogs will not be permitted, and dogs must be under their owner’s voice control in the dog exercise area. For more information, call (847) 360-4700.