New Port Richey has a new obstacle course just for dogs, and it’s thanks to the efforts of a 13-year-old Boy Scout.
Justin Harbert of Palm Harbor spearheaded the creation of the obstacle course at the dog park at Meadows Park as a major part of his attempt to advance to the rank of Eagle Scout.
Boy Scouts who hope to earn an Eagle ranking must complete a service project.
Justin formally proposed the project Feb. 16, and then took charge of planning it. He chose the designs of the obstacles and then took charge of getting the materials and recruiting volunteers to help him set up the obstacle course.
He worked with John Fussell, parks superintendent at the New Port Richey Parks and Recreation Department, and got donations from the department to create some of the obstacles.
On March 16, Justin led about 50 volunteers in a build day to install the obstacle course at the park.
This was the biggest project Justin has taken on, and it was a chance for him to demonstrate leadership skills.
“I actually like being a leader because I like being looked up to and stuff,” said Justin, who has a dog named Louie, a 1 1/2-year-old Chihuahua, Maltese, and Manchester terrier mix.
Ask Justin how the project came together, and he’ll explain how the obstacles were built piece-by-piece. He should know. He instructed volunteers on how to put them together, in addition to building a few himself. He also directed both adults and youths on the build day.
Elaine Smith, parks and recreation director for New Port Richey, said that her department has worked with boys on Eagle Scout projects before, but this one was unusual in how quickly it came together.
“Never had one that fast,” she said.
She called Justin an “incredible” young man.
New Port Richey now has a dog obstacle course complete with hurdles for pets to jump over, tunnels to crawl through and a ramp to climb over. Smith plans to fence it in and add benches and a plaque in honor of Justin.
The obstacle course is not only a great place for the dogs to get exercise. but also encourages interaction between humans, Smith said.
“It’s been a great addition to our dog park,” she said.
Justin still needs to earn additional merit badges before he rises to the rank of Eagle, but the project is a big step toward his advancement.
Justin isn’t quite sure what he wants to do when he becomes an adult, but he likes the sound of being an engineer in the U.S. Air Force.
Kristine Harbert, Justin’s mother, said she’s “very proud” of her son and the work he has done on the project.
“It’s been a great experience for him,” she said.
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