SPANISH FORK -- A K9 training center unlike anything else in Utah is now under construction in Spanish Fork.
The Utah County Sheriff's Office broke ground Wednesday morning on the Wride-Sherwood K9 Training Center, named in honor of Deputy Greg Sherwood and the late Sgt. Cory Wride. Both men were shot Jan. 30 during a crime spree that spanned from Eagle Mountain to Nephi.
The one-acre facility will be built entirely with donations from Operation Bald Eagle -- a national nonprofit organization that assists families of fallen law enforcement personnel -- and several local businesses. The training center will include an obstacle course, running track, storage and kennels. Lt. Tom Hodgson said plans for the facility have been in the works for years, but there has never been funding available for the project.
"Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragic event to move things forward," Hodgson said. "At the sheriff's office we have to deal with budgets and priorities, and without Operation Bald Eagle stepping forward to do something in (Sherwood and Wride's) honor, this wouldn't be coming to fruition."
Jeffrey Mitchell, president of Operation Bald Eagle, said because Sherwood is currently serving in the K9 unit with the Utah County Sheriff's Office and Wride formerly served in the K9 unit, the organization decided to make a donation to the K9 unit.
"Operation Bald Eagle is a charity to help families of fallen police, fire and military and help serve them in return for them serving us," Mitchell said. "When we found out about Sherwood and Wride we wanted to do something to help and there was a need for this."
Nannette Wride, the widow of Sgt. Wride, and Greg and Gina Sherwood participated in the groundbreaking using heavy-duty equipment from Blaine Hone Excavating to begin clearing the area that will become the training center.
Nannette Wride said it was a lot of fun to drive the huge tractor and be a part of the project.
"It was so cool because this means something. Cory would be doing back flips. He had a real passion for this," Wride said. "It is such a huge honor to be a part of this. It is something Cory and Greg loved and something that is very badly needed."
Gina Sherwood said she is excited to see the dogs at work in the facility once it is completed. She said the work the dogs do is incredible and the project is filling a big need.
She also said her husband, Greg, is recovering well and continues to improve after being shot in the head.
"He said this is really humbling that they would honor him along with Cory. He just wanted it to be the Wride Center," Gina Sherwood said. "He is excited to be able to use it."
Mitchell said the goal is to have the facility up and running in 90 days.
Deputy Brett Lawrenson, a member of the Utah County K9 unit, said the facility will be used by dogs and handlers not only in Utah County but from throughout the state as well. Handlers will be able to run their dogs through an obstacle course and use the track to do vehicle pursuits, maneuvers and extractions with the dogs. There will also be storage facilities for equipment, and kennels for dogs to stay in when officers go on vacation.
Lawrenson said in addition to being able to do training with the dogs at the facility, it will also serve as a place for the public to come learn more about how K9 dogs are used.
"We do a lot of public presentations and we go out to youth groups, but this will allow us to do demonstrations on a bigger scale," Lawrenson said. "A lot of times our demonstrations are limited by space, but we want to make this open to the public so they can come and learn."
Lawrenson said he is amazed by the outpouring of support from the community to help get the facility up and running.
"We have spent years talking about this and I am amazed it is happening," he said. "It is phenomenal. A lot of times police only see the negative in the community, so this is a breath of fresh air and shows us we have a lot of good people in the community."
Blaine Hone Excavating will be donating all the excavation work for the area where the facility will be built, and M & W Construction and Target will be volunteering employee time to help with labor. Mitchell said donors are still being sought for concrete, blacktop, storage space and some equipment.
Anyone who wants to get involved can contact Mitchell through www.operationbaldeagle.org.
Daily Herald reporter Paige Fieldsted can be reached at email@example.com, 801-344-2560 or on Twitter @paigefieldsted.