Saturday, April 19, 2014

‘Bark Park’ unleashed

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 5/20/2013

The Ottawa Bark Park no longer is tethered to the word “concept.”

Ottawa city commissioners voted 5-0 last week to approve a 2.8-acre site for the dog park in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa.

The Ottawa Bark Park no longer is tethered to the word “concept.”

Ottawa city commissioners voted 5-0 last week to approve a 2.8-acre site for the dog park in Forest Park, 320 N. Locust St., Ottawa.

After considering more than a dozen locations throughout Ottawa, a Bark Park Boosters committee unanimously recommended the city convert a little-used tract in the northwest corner of the park near the levee into a dog park facility.

The dog park would be fenced in — 2.1 acres for large dogs and 0.7 acre for small dogs — with parking access readily available, committee members said, adding that the location has abundant trees for shading, which would not be removed. Benches and other amenities also are planned to go inside the fenced areas, committee members said.

Dawn Rush and Kim Geist, co-chairs of the Bark Park Boosters, asked for the commission’s support for the park, including a water line to be run to the designated dog park area.

The co-chairs cited the recreational and social advantages of establishing a dog park in the community, where pet owners can safely exercise their dogs in a gated area.

Richard Nienstedt, city manager, told city commissioners Wednesday that their approval of a site likely would help the boosters raise needed funds.

Donors often are more apt to contribute funds for such an amenity if they know a location for the project has been established, Nienstedt said.

In addition to adding an amenity to Forest Park, the dog park also could discourage crime in that public area, Wynndee Lee, the city’s planning and codes director, said.

Other communities have reported converting under-used public space for such amenities as dog parks has been known to reduce vandalism, Lee and Nienstedt said.

No one spoke out against the dog park at Wednesday’s city commission meeting.

Boosters have raised about $10,100 of the funds needed for the park, which they are estimating would cost $45,000 to $50,000 to install, Lee said Monday.

“We have received about $1,000 from [dog] licensing and [tag] engraving, as well as about $9,100 in pledges,” Lee said.

A sign is expected to be erected for the space to acknowledge the park’s charter members who pledged donations, she said.

“To be listed as a charter member, the donation must be in by Aug. 1,” Lee said.

Bark Park Boosters have divided donations into three categories: Paw Print Club, $250 donation; Tail Wagging Club, $1,000 donation, and Dog’s Best Friend Club, $5,000, Lee said.

The city’s Parks Department would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the park, Lee said, though she said patrons would be expected to clean up after their pets and dispose of the waste. The city will provide an “easy means” of disposing of the waste, Lee said, with designated receptacles. The boosters group probably would plan a couple of events each year to spruce up the park as well, Lee said.

In addition, the group would like to raise money through selling bricks that would be used to create a path from the parking area to the gated dog park areas, Lee said. Organizers said the walkway is expected to raise the cost of the project to about $54,000.

“If we don’t raise enough money through brick sales, we’ll still build the park,” Lee said. “We can always put down mulch [where the brick sidewalk would have been] for the path.”

Establishing a dog park was ranked sixth on a 2008 community survey in which residents were asked to list their priorities for facilities and programs needed in Ottawa, Lee said.

“It was somewhat of a surprise that it was No. 6 on the survey,” Lee said. “A dog park wasn’t really on our horizon at that point. We’ve heard more requests for it in the past couple of years.”

Bark Park committee members also said visitors frequently ask Franklin County Convention and Tourism Bureau representatives if Ottawa has a dog park.

The booster organization’s goal is to raise the bulk of the funds by Aug. 1, Lee said.

For more information about the dog park or how to make a donation, call Lee at City Hall (785) 229-3600.

“If we’ve put a good dent in raising the bulk of the funds by Aug. 1, then we would build the dog park later this year [after community events slated for the park are completed],” Lee said. “If we don’t raise enough by Aug. 1, it would be built next year.”

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