By Jeff Todd
PARKER, Colo. (CBS4)– The Town of Parker now has its first off-leash dog park, but the planning has been years in the making and the name for the park, USMC Cpl. David M. Sonka Dog Park, has been known almost as long.
“This is a program from David’s funeral that I kept and I took it back to my office that afternoon and I put it on my bulletin board and I just made that vow to David and Flex that we would get this dog park built,” said Parker Town Councilwoman Amy Holland.
“I’ve had it on my desk since 2013 and several mornings I would pat it and say, ‘Good morning. We’re going to get this done.’ and here we are today.”
“We are so proud and honored to have this facility named after David,” said his father Kevin Sonka.
Corporal David Sonka was killed in May 2013 in Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier turned his gun on American troops, killing Cpl. Sonka and his service dog Flex. Sonka grew up in Parker and graduated from Chaparral High School.
While Councilwoman Holland had the idea to name the much-needed dog park after Sonka, getting approval from the family wasn’t very easy.
“It took me nearly a year to track him down and finally by chance I ran into Kevin,” Holland said. “I pulled him aside and I kind of got into it partially what I liked to do. It was certainly something welcomed by Kevin and the entire family.”
There are already two, and soon to be a third, signs commemorating the park for Sonka. One plaque describes Sonka’s service as a dog trainer in the Marine Corp. Holland says the town and its employees have “put extra love, they put their hearts and souls into this event and this project and it’s all coming together.”
“All the signage they put up, all the thought they put into this, I know David’s name will be carried on for generations to come,” Kevin said. “I don’t even know if I can put it into words how incredible this is. How proud we are that Town of Parker would do something like this, to make a memorial that will last forever in his name, that’s unbelievable.”
The 5-acre off-leash park is located near E-470 on Pine Lane between Parker Road and Jordan Road. A disc-golf course shares the property and also opened on Wednesday.
Kevin Sonka runs a charity, Rocky Mountain Dawgs, that teaches veterans with PTSD to train their own service dogs.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.