A group of young professionals are continuing efforts in their bid to develop a dog park in one of several parks in Middletown.
However, there are some in the community who want to make sure that the owners of Rover and Fido will be there with their pooper scoopers as well as ensuring the project will be sustainable and not burden the city with additional responsibilities and costs.
Young Professionals, a nonprofit organization led by Jeff Repper, Laura Desmond and Kevin Drake, has been working for the past few months with the city Park Board and the city staff. Repper said the group has also submitted a preliminary proposal to Middletown City Council with Sunset Park as their “primo spot” and also suggested Smith Park and the former Roosevelt School site.
Repper said the group has been working with the appropriate people to develop a detailed plan.
“Before we start fund-raising, we wanted to get the blessing from the city,” he said.
He said the group is working to develop an overall construction plan and a five-year maintenance budget. Repper said they have also received information from Hamilton and Centerville on how those cities developed their dog parks. Costs to develop a local dog park could cost as much as $100,000 and includes $20,000 in possible cost overruns.
“That’s a big round number, but we hope to get services and materials donated,” he said.
City Manager Doug Adkins recently told the Journal-News that he’ll be meeting with the Young Professionals later this month to continue discussions.
“They don’t have a firm plan or funding stream yet, so it’s all preliminary and discussion at this point,” he said. “We would certainly listen to concerns of nearby residents as we consider locations.”
While the park board has been receptive to the proposal, they have been very assertive to ensure that proper protocols are followed and due diligence is done, said Jason Jones, park board chairman.
“We made it very clear that they follow city protocol so that they are not rejected on a technicality,” Jones said. “They’ve done a really good job (in working out concerns and details with city staff ). We’re really excited about it and its potential.”
He said the park board only makes recommendations to City Council, which will ultimately have the final say.
Jones said the city budget does not have a lot of funding for parks and the park board does not want to add more more work for the city staff who maintain the parks.
“We want to see it (a dog park) be sustainable over a long period of time,” Jones said. “We’re on board, but they need to follow all of the steps.”
As for a location, several parks have been suggested such as Smith Park, Sunset Park, Gladell Park and Damon Park as well as the old Roosevelt School site that is being acquired by the city through a land swap with Middletown City Schools. In the five years he has been on the park board, Jones said there have been two other attempts to establish a dog park but there was no follow through on those proposals.
Jones said Smith Park is the busiest park and may not be suitable for a dog park. He added that Gladell and Damon parks also may not be suitable for other physical reasons.
“My gut feeling is that the Roosevelt site might be the best place for a dog park,” he said. “Anything we can do to improve the image of Middletown is why we’re here.”
In a survey of residents done several years ago, the top amenity desired in Middletown was a dog park.
Resident wants accountability
While he is not opposed to the a proposed dog park in the city, a Kenwood Drive resident said he wants to know who’ll be responsible for ongoing costs when the city has struggled with getting streets paved. He also wanted to know who to call about litter, noise, parking and cleaning up after the dogs.
“I want to make sure there the accountability is in place,” David Brown said. “We need to have a place to call when there are issues.”
Brown said he would like to ask some questions before the park board makes a recommendation and council considers the proposal. He said he has done some research on what needs to be considered or completed to establish a dog park.
“When I looked this up, I found there’s a lot that goes into something like this,” he said.
Brown said he’s concerned about owners cleaning up after their dogs, adding that he has yet to see anyone in Sunset Park to pick up the dog waste and has seen very few people carrying a bag when they walk their dogs there.
He said he has cleaned up the trash left by soccer and lacrosse teams that use the former Roosevelt athletic field in the past and said he won’t clean up after dogs.
“Sunset Park and Smith Park and the Old Roosevelt school yard are people parks,” Brown said. “A dog park is a huge commitment of time and money. I just can not see where it is going to come from in Middletown.”
Hamilton effort successful
Officials in Hamilton say the Bark Park that opened in 2014 has been a success.
Steve Timmer, who was Hamilton’s 2014 Citizen of the Year, said his greatest accomplishment was getting the Bark Park up and running.
Timmer, who is now the director of the nonprofit Hamilton Parks Conservancy that replaced the city parks department last year, said “the dog park is one of the most used assets in the city’s parks system.”
He said that the dog park is quite a desired asset and that he periodically receives requests for additional dog parks in Hamilton.
City officials said with the assistance of the Hamilton Community Foundation more than $60,000 was raised and that the project received donations of materials along with a lot of volunteer labor.