Curiosity brought Cheryl Raugh to her first Friends of Bluffton Dog Park meeting a year ago, a time when the group was trying to recover from a recent scandal.
One year later, under Raugh's stewardship, the organization is close to meeting a fundraising goal that was set nearly a decade ago, when the group was founded to build a dog park in Bluffton. To proceed, it simply needs approval from Beaufort County and the town of Bluffton, though that could be the group's next challenge.
"The park was a project where the wheels had come off the track," she said. "We've worked to get back on track."
Raugh's first meeting, in July 2013, was also the organization's first since former president William Grooms was charged with embezzling from the group. According to Bluffton police, Grooms used his position to spend more than $19,000 from the organization to cover gambling debts, leaving it with just $662.
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Raugh, the owner of a golden retriever named Boone, and many other residents attended the July meeting to support the group's cause after hearing of Grooms' arrest. Grooms was charged with breach of trust, but he never stood trial. On July 14, 2013, about a month after he was arrested, he committed suicide.
With the organization in disarray, the board that served under Grooms' resigned en masse in August 2013. Raugh was nominated to join the board and become its new president less than a month after her first meeting.
Raugh, who is a project manager for communications companies, and the new board has raised about $36,000. Raugh said the goal has been raised from $40,000 to $50,000 to include items not in the original plan, such as parking and dog-waste bins.
But it's unclear when and where the park will be built.
A site in the northern section of Buckwalter Regional Park was rejected in March because of standing water in low-lying sections, and a southern site being considered has been criticized by residents in The Farm subdivision. That location, near Mill Street in The Farm, was originally proposed for the dog park in the concept plan for Buckwalter Regional Park, county administrator Gary Kubic said.
But after hearing concerns from the residents, Kubic said, county officials are considering alternate sites in the regional park.
An alternate site will require approval from town and county councils before plans can be approved, he said.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.
- Beaufort County nixes site for dog park in Bluffton, March 6, 2014
- Bluffton dog park group recoups losses after embezzlement, Nov. 27, 2013