IOFRK Grant To Fund Snake Pit Park

The dog park in Gunn Park in Fort Scott, Kansas is very popular with local dog owners. Many canine pet owners meet there regularly to let their four-legged friends get exercise and socialize with other dogs in a safe, enclosed area made especially for them to play and burn energy.

While a dog park meets the needs of many pet owners, local ophidian owners haven’t had a good place to recreate their pets. John Snalt, a senior at Fort Scott High School, is a local pet owner who has personally felt the lack of options. “There just aren’t a lot of places I can take Fred to get exercise,” he said. Fred is John’s 4.5-foot copper-headed water cobra that he got when he was 12.  That’s about to change for John, Fred, and other snake owners in the area.

John Snalt with his pet copper-headed water cobra named Fred.

Thanks to a grant from the International Order of Friendly Reptile Keepers (IOFRK), Gunn park will be getting two snake pit exercise areas this coming year.

Located just North of the dog park will be the non-venomous snake pit, and just North of that will be the venomous snake pit.  Sue Stalkholm from the IOFRK stressed the importance of having two separate areas for the different types of snakes. “I need to stress the importance of having separate areas for different types of snakes,” she said in her comments to “This isn’t just a simple hole in the ground. We’ve designed everything to maximize safety and fun for everyone using the snake pit park,” she said.

Plans call for an emergency telephone and a snake bite kit located between the two pits as well as educational signs to make sure everyone knows that they should always check with the snake’s owner before attempting to pet a snake or play a flute for it.  Sue said, “Many people who haven’t been around snakes don’t understand proper snake-handling etiquette so we want to make sure everyone has all the knowledge they need to be comfortable in the snake pit park.”

The grant will cover the construction of the two snake pits as well as ongoing maintenance for the first five years. Ms. Stalkholm said that in most communities, snake pits have become very popular, and local donations can usually fund maintenance after a few years.  She stressed the economic value of having snake pit park options for the community and suggested that it might open up opportunities for reptilian pet stores that wouldn’t have been able to stay in business without a local snake pit park.

Several local community members expressed concern about the project. “Is this a good thing to put in Fort Scott before we have an emergency room?” asked John Shnoodle. Mr. Shnoodle doesn’t want anyone to think he is against snakes as pets, but just wasn’t sure if emergency response time should be considered.

Jane Pfeffle also weighed in with strong opinions on the subject. “We shouldn’t build a snake pit until we have a hospital,” she stated emphatically. When told that the funding for this was coming from an outside source and wouldn’t be available to fund a hospital anyway, she responded with, “That doesn’t matter. We need to shut everything down until a hospital opens in Fort Scott again. That includes all of our roads, schools, electricity, water, etc. If it has a budget, power switch, or valve, it all needs to shut down until a hospital reopens.”

According to IOFRK the snake pit park is expected to be completed in exactly 1 year. “We like to see a grand opening that the entire community can participate in.” said Sue. “In other communities, we’ve brought in some snake charmers for the opening day, and that has been a really big hit with local residents,” Sue said. The snake pit park plans to celebrate the opening day on April 1st of 2025. “Plans like this really best when everything related to them happens on April 1st. It really doesn’t work well to have discussions about it on any other day of the year,” said Sue. reached out to Fort Scott Mayor Sam Sneedle (who isn’t the normal mayor but is briefly filling the role for the purposes of April 1st) for comment, but he said that current litigation prevented him from making in comment. He went on to say, “They are going to build what in Gunn Park?!”

6 thoughts on “IOFRK Grant To Fund Snake Pit Park”

  1. This is not fair! Why do dogs and snakes get all the best park areas? Come on! Do a survey and find out the reality for pets in Fort Scott. There are other pets in our community that need a place to play too. Think about it: 4.5 out of every 5 Bourbon County residents under the age of 8 have or want to have ponies. Where are they supposed to let those roam and socialize? What is it like for those who live in Fort Scott proper or in the downtown apartments. It’s not like the Old Fort will let ponies, hedgehogs, hamsters, and the occasional lizard range freely on the parade grounds during the weekends! When does the splash pad offer special pet hours? We need spaces for these precious pets to play. Good for you dog and snake owners, but we need safe spaces for all pets. I say we make special spaces for all pets or open all spaces to everyone. Sure a few of those venomous snakes might get trampled on, or a few of the dogs might get bit, but that will just build the businesses of local veterinarians. It’s part of the circle of life! Let’s make Fort Scott a place for all pets to live out their lives with healthy excercise. They will grow stronger by facing the real life challenges of socializing within a healthy food chain.

  2. What are we doing ?? We have children and visitors that go to our beautiful Gunn Park, why in the world and who in this community would approve this ?? I will not be going there anymore if this happens. Ruining such a unique and beautiful place for families.

  3. How does someone exercise their snake?
    A snake park?
    I have so many questions…..
    Ok…it’s a joke. Right?

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