Fresh off the online voting effort that shot the city to the top of Coastal Living magazine's list of Happiest Seaside Towns and helped vault Candice Glover to "American Idol" victory, the city of Beaufort will now embark on an effort to win as much as $100,000 to build a dog park.
"Everyone has been asking about a dog park, wanting a dog park, and they've been asking about Southside (Park), and one of our holdouts has been the financials," said Kim Bonturi, president of Chain-Free Beaufort. "As a community, we pulled together for the 'happiest seaside town,' and we've proven that we can work together."
Beaufort is one of hundreds of towns across the nation -- including Bluffton -- vying for prize money in the PetSafe Bark for Your Park Contest, which will be decided by online votes. The winner receives $100,000, and four runners-up receive $25,000 each, according to the contest website.
People can vote up to twice a day, once through Facebook and once through the contest website. Fifteen finalists will be selected based on votes, land availability, local government support and population. Then a second phase of voting begins.
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Last year, Bluffton and the Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks was one of the finalists for an award, but did not receive a prize.
Land is set aside for parks in both municipalities.
Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks has an agreement with the town and Beaufort County to use 1.5 acres in Buckwalter Regional Park. Southside Park Committee has been working with the city of Beaufort for a decade, and land is designated for a dog area in the 30-acre park.
Committee member Connie Hipp said she was thrilled at the prospect of winning money to help with Southside Park, and early estimates indicate $25,000 would be more than enough for the basic park planned. With more money, the committee and city could dream bigger, she added.
Bonturi encouraged all residents to vote, regardless of whether they have a dog. Dog parks provide a sense of community for people, she said.
"It's a place animal lovers can go and hang out. And we all have something in common, so it's not only good for the animals but good for the community as a whole," she said.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said the community's success in winning the Happiest Seaside Town title suggests Beaufort could pull off another victory.
"There are a lot of larger communities, but why not us?" he said. "We've shown we are active in civic engagement."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.