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Monday, Jul 23, 2018
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Guest column: Deputy’s legacy of heroism inspired a place for dogs to play

My dog Sophie likes to remind me that the dog days of summer are just around the corner. That means it’s time for her to shed her winter coat, head outdoors and enjoy the Tampa sunshine.

Where can Sophie and her furry friends go to enjoy, but not bake, in the Florida heat? They head over to the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park, located in Tampa’s Channelside neighborhood.

This is an extra special park to me, because it honors a man who loved his own furry friend. Just like I love Sophie, Deputy John Kotfila Jr. loved his German Shepherd pal Dexter. Deputy Kotfila gave his life to save two lives as a wrong way driver approached on the Selmon Expressway.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE Dog park planned to honor deputy who died acting as human shield

Someone at the Expressway Authority must have a dog because they got it right: It’s in the shade of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, there’s plenty of room for puppies to show off their moves, exercise areas to really impress the other barkers, and even top-of-the-line canine turf that doesn’t hurt delicate paws.

As much as transportation woes seem to always dog our region, the Expressway Authority’s ability to repurpose underutilized land beneath the thoroughfare into a valuable and thriving community asset is just one example of how the authority continually reinvests tolling revenues back into the region.

When it comes to providing safe, reliable and innovative multi-modal transportation solutions for our community, the authority is truly "Best in Show."

Channelside is booming and, with all of the exciting plans for Water Street Tampa yet to come, this part of town is only getting started. The Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park is a great neighborhood amenity and, because of its connection to the Selmon Greenway, dog owners like me can walk to the park on pedestrian-friendly pathways.

And because there is ample parking, residents from across Tampa can also enjoy the park and stay to frequent one of the several dog-friendly shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.

As much as I could go on about the Expressway Authority and its good work, Sophie needs to go. Literally. Sophie really needs to go. Fortunately, the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park has pet waste stations positioned around both sides of the park to make it easy to clean up afterwards. It’s a dirty job but cleaning up after your pet is important and the right thing to do.

And kudos to the Expressway Authority’s partner, the city of Tampa, and the great job it does of providing ongoing maintenance and management of the park. Someone deserves a treat!

So, to all Sophie’s four-legged friends, stop on by the park and see why it’s where all the hip doggies, and their owners, hang out. It’s a fun place for both dogs and owners, and a great way to honor one of Tampa’s finest heroes. I know Dexter must be proud.

Badia Verona lives in the Channelside area of downtown Tampa and enjoys walking her dog Sophia through the Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park, opened last June at 705 Raymond St.

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