Today my backyard is a shady park, named after me! It celebrates the animal/human bond with many interesting things to see. Bring your furry friend, but please be respectful as this park is on leash only. You will love it here – as much as I did – even though it’s changed a lot!
Historic Beautiful Joe Park
The Park is 8.5 acres of tranquil greenery bounded by the Bighead River. It was originally severed from the house and designated as parkland back in 1963. The land was quite overgrown and a group of volunteers, spear-headed by the Meaford Rotary Club went to work. The locals knew that I was laid to rest on the property not far from the river, and sure enough, a marker was uncovered and authenticated and proper cairn and historic plaque were erected. The rocks in the cairn were harvested from the river.
Click a map element to learn more.
Beautiful Joe Welcome Statue
Beautiful Joe’s Burial Site & Heritage Plaque
Margaret Marshall Saunders Monument
Paradise Islands (Memorial Plaques Display)
Peter Francis Memorial Bench
Police Canine Unit Memorial
Service Animals Monument
Beautiful Joe's Burial Site and Heritage Plaque
My burial site now has a stone cairn, wrought iron fencing and an official historical plaque that tells visitors about Margaret Marshall Saunders who made me so famous. My friends at the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society added a foot marker because they were so often asked where I was laid to rest.
Police Canine Unit Memorial
Police Canine Unit Memorial was the first of the monuments erected in the park back in 2000 and festivities in 2001. Canine units were invited from all over and many were in attendance. Many canine officers have since visited when starting with the Police Force or upon their retirement. Other groups planning their own monuments have visited the Police Canine Unit memorial. If you see a small bouquet at the monument, my friends at the Society may have placed it there to pay respect for a fallen canine officer. The bouquet will often have a few sprigs of dogwood in it and a note will be attached.
The pavilion was erected in 1967 by the Meaford Rotary Club and still stands solidly today. Many events have been hosted here including:
- Family gatherings such as wedding ceremonies, showers, celebrations of life and reunions
- Day Camps for children
- Exercise classes, yoga, Tai Chi, etc.
- Meetings of various groups
- Events hosted by the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society
For information about booking the pavilion at Beautiful Joe Park, contact the Municipality of Meaford 519-538-1060 (Parks & Rec Dept.). Hydro is available at the pavilion.
Did you know that Miss Saunders wrote a sequel to my original story? It was called Beautiful Joe’s Paradise and tells the story of where pets go when they die – and I, Beautiful Joe, was the president there! It’s a wonderful tale full of all sorts of animals. The Paradise Islands in my Park were constructed to house plaques to commemorate much-loved animals. Many different animals are remembered there – even a pig from Alaska! Each of the kiosks can host 150 plaques, and remarkably, the most recent one that was constructed in 2019, was half full by the end of 2023! Visitors are moved when viewing these sentimental plaques from around the world. The plaques can be purchased from the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society.
The Society pays tribute to Service Dogs with a monument entitled "Together We Are Whole. To recognize and honour outstanding interaction between people and animals, as demonstrated by canines, trained to assist people in need."
The Service Dogs memorial celebrates all the assistance that trained Service Dogs provide within the realm of guidance, care and comfort to make their people’s lives fuller. They can help those with physical as well as mental challenges. Tasks include opening doors / turning on lights, sensing needs for medications, alerting of danger and providing comfort.
Should you encounter a service dog on duty – wearing their official vests – please remember that they are working and the health and safety of their owner depends on them. Always ask permission to pet the dog, but especially a service animal.
The Society also acknowledges the many other animals who provide help to people – often for emotional support.
The 9/11 monument honours
- all those who lost their lives when the World Trade Towers in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia were attacked on September 11, 2001.
- The Society wanted to recognize the 300 or more search and rescue animals that worked so diligently looking for survivors,
- and lastly to honour a yellow Lab canine officer, Sirius, who was killed when the south tower fell. Sirius was a bomb sniffer dog working for the New Jersey / New York Police Port Authority. He was in his kennel in the South Tower when he and his partner / handler Officer David Lim heard the crash, and David went to investigate. David survived and Sirius’ remains were removed from the building with the American flag draped over him when discovered in February 2002. Officer Lim was able to attend the ceremony at my Park and unveiled the monument at in May 2002. The Society was presented with a much-revered cross, made from a beam of the fallen tower. It was later added to the monument.
- On Sept. 11, 2016, a plaque was added to the monument beneath Sirius’ plaque. It was for Bretagne, a golden retriever who was the last known surviving dog that went to Ground Zero in search of life after the attacks. It was her first mission back in 2001.
Beautiful Joe Welcome
The Welcome statue at the start of the pathway through the park shows a life-size bronze statue of me, made by founding member and artist / sculptor, Gunter Neumann. It is said that if you pat my head, you will be granted 100 dog-years of good luck! … and I love pats! Many people have brought their copy of my book and taken a photo of it and me together. I like having my picture taken too!
Margaret Marshall Saunders
Across from my Welcome statue, is a monument to honour author, Margaret Marshall Saunders. As she is laid to rest in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto in an unmarked grave, the Society felt this tribute to her was very deserving to a woman ahead of her time - who loved all animals. It was unveiled in 2013.
Other amenities in the park are:
- 2 poop bag stations – one at the entrance by the parking lot and a second by the back path where it splits.
- Potable water tap is at the pavilion at the end closest to the river (available late May to October). Water bowls are provided within the Park, and please feel free to refill them with fresh water.
- A waste receptacle is available only during the months that the Municipal Parks department can safely get their truck into the park (approximately early May to late October)
Several picnic tables are located throughout the park and in the pavilion. For information about booking the pavilion at Beautiful Joe Park, contact the Municipality of Meaford 519-538-1060 (Parks & Rec Dept.). Hydro is available at the pavilion.
Within the park are several benches and the main walking trail is very even and level. The back trail that splits off from the main trail is an easy to moderate climb for most, and connects to Victoria Crescent with a set of built-in stairs.
Flora & Fauna
Within my park are so many beautiful trees – and you know how dogs love trees!
There are so many native trees: Maple, Ash, Horse Chestnut, White Cedar, Walnut, Elm and more. My friends planted a Red Oak to honour Gunter Neumann as it is native to the province and his original homeland of Germany.
Seasonally, you will see various wildflowers in bloom – buttercups, daisies, chicory, trout lilies and so many more.My Park is very shady and lovely, and because of this, gardening can be a challenge. It was decided a few years ago to get the community involved, especially children, and we had some rock painting events. The painted rocks were collected and sealed, then introduced into the gardens to add colour and interest. I still see people hiding newly-painted rocks for others to find!
Birds, Beasts, Fish and Amphibians
As my Park is bounded by the Bighead River, it can be home to all manner of birds and waterfowl, so you need to slow down and pay attention! Depending on the season, look for:
- Along the river, occasionally you might see osprey, eagles, and hawks- but much more common are kingfishers, turkey vultures, ducks, Canada Geese, cormorants, and gulls
- Within the woods, you may get lucky and see our pileated woodpecker, owls, but you will almost certainly see chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches - and sometimes flickers, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and more. In the evening we have bats.
- We have critters and fish too!
- Deer have been known to prune the hostas and bunnies munch on grass and clover, while raccoons reside in the trees…. Oh yes…. Many of my four-legged friends get quite excited when they see the squirrels …. And there are lots and lots of squirrels – red, grey and black, with some chipmunks too!
- As for fish - we have salmon, trout and even some smallmouth bass. Occasionally crayfish, frogs and tadpoles are seen along the river.
Behind my welcome statue is such a unique tree! It has camouflage-looking bark and is known as a ghost tree! In truth, it is a sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and this specific tree, a Carolinian species, is said to be the oldest and most northerly sycamore in North America. In 2023, this tree was awarded Tree of the Year by the Meaford Chapter of Tree Trust. Click here to learn more.
Peter Francis Memorial Bench
Take a moment to browse the info kiosk. Upcoming events and other pet-related or Meaford activities are listed there. Grab a brochure, too.
Visitors and Friends
My friends at the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society do gush about these elves who use the park. It seems they pick up litter, dead head the plants, pull weeds, fill water bowls for the visiting pooches and just generally keep the park tidy and encourage others to respect it too. These same elves often dress me up with hats, scarves … and bring me gifts too, like painted rocks, flowers, toys, sticks, balls, even notes and cards … Here’s an example – Would you believe I even got a hand-written card from a woman named Memory who works with exotic animals in Houston Texas! The note, which had a zebra on the cover, was found in the garden at the park and it said her grandmother bought a copy of Beautiful Joe in the 1920’s for 10 cents, and she gave it to Memory when she was a child. My friends at the Society were in awe!
Thank you for visiting and thank you to the elves!
My Park is very shady and lovely, and because of this, gardening can be a challenge. It was decided a few years ago to get the community involved, especially children, and we had some rock painting events. The painted rocks were collected and sealed, then introduced into the gardens to add colour and interest. I still see people hiding newly-painted rocks for others to find!
My Park is very neatly kept thanks to:
- The Municipality of Meaford’s Parks & Rec Department staff
- The Society
- The volunteers for the spring (and sometimes fall) Park Cleanup
- The local “elves” that I hear the Board Members talk about so glowingly
Thank you to all our “Good Neighbours” who pick up after their pets.
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