FORT MILL — As the leash is unclipped, both four-legged and two-legged friends will finally have the freedom to enjoy life to the fullest.
The Anne Springs Close Greenway’s Mary Warner Mack Memorial Dog Park is a fitting dream to honor a Fort Mill woman whose love of dogs and the environment filled the hearts of those who knew her, said Denise Cubbedge, director of development for the Greenway.
Mary Warner Mack, 23, loved spending time at the Anne Springs Close Greenway with her mother, Mary Mack, and golden retriever Ava.
The community was stunned to learn that Mary Warner passed away unexpectedly after a brief illness on July 3.
“Mary Warner had a real passion for dogs,” Cubbedge said. “It’s a place people can come and share a love of hers in a place that meant a lot to her.”
The dog park is one of the projects included in the Greenway’s $15 million capital campaign.
Mary Warner’s parents will be a part of the planning process, Cubbedge said.
“They get to be part of the creation and make it become a reality,” she said. “It’s going to be a great asset to this community.”
Mary Warner’s mother Mary Mack said her family wants to take this time to do something good for Fort Mill, where they have spent generations.
“We wanted to try to do something that would be important to Mary Warner,” she said. “The response has been beyond what we would have imagined.”
Mary said they would often walk the Greenway’s trails with Ava, rescued by her daughter from a puppy mill last Thanksgiving.
“Mary Warner loved the Greenway and that little dog,” she said.
Mary Warner was employed by Bank of America and planned to move to Atlanta, where she would attend the Georgia Tech Sam Nunn School of International Affairs in the fall.
She was a 2009 graduate of Nation Ford High School, where she was the school’s first valedictorian.
Nation Ford principal Beverley Bowman said Mary Warner and her graduating class left a legacy of excellence.
“She was a brilliant, beautiful young lady who impressed all of us when she came to Nation Ford as a junior when we opened in 2007,” Bowman said. “Our hearts break for the loss of this talented young woman. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers.”
Mary Warner was also a 2013 summa cum laude graduate of Clemson University with bachelor degrees in history and Spanish.
Her mother said they hope to establish a scholarship at Clemson in her daughter’s honor.
“Mary Warner loved Clemson,” she said.
Bayles Mack, Mary Warner’s grandfather, said she was always dedicated to school. “She was a great student,” he said.
He said Mary Warner, who was his oldest granddaughter of seven grandchildren, cared deeply for her family and friends. She was also sensitive to the needs of animals and the environment, Bayles Mack said.
“Mary Warner was a kind and caring individual,” he said. “Family and the preservation of the Earth meant everything.”
Atlanta had what Mary Warner was looking for in a place to live – a nearby dog park for Ava to run and play safely, Cubbedge said.
“It was an important part of her life,” she said. The memorial dog park “seems like a perfect fit.”
The park will feature more than 5 acres of space where owners and their dogs can play in a safe, natural environment, according to the Greenway’s website. Cubbedge said the park will be located on the Field Trail Barn side of the Greenway. Coincidentally, the entrance is just a short distance up Springfield Parkway from Nation Ford High.
The park is slated to open next summer, also the Greenway’s 20-year anniversary, Cubbedge said. “It will be a big year for us,” she said.
Residents have already played an active role in establishing the park, Cubbedge said.
“It’s going to be one of the cornerstones of the Greenway,” she said.
Martha Kinard, a Fort Mill resident and friend of the Mack family, said Mary Warner valued education and physical activity. She said the project will ensure Mary Warner’s passions live on.
“The community knows how important and rare the Greenway is,” she said. “The dog park will be there forever.”