The Washington Parks Department has secured land for a dog park.
Parks Director Darren Dunkle made the announcement at the Feb. 6 parks board meeting. Dunkle told the board the city had recently reacquired land, located on Simonds Avenue near public works, from the Washington Youth Sports Association that would be the future site of a dog park.
“This is a big step,” Dunkle said.
Plans for a dog park have long been discussed, Dunkle said. The city began looking for land that would both meet the needs of the dog owners and not cost the city.
During research, the land on Simonds Avenue being leased to the Sports Association was identified as a potential target. Dunkle said the Youth Association decided the land was unsuitable to develop as actual baseball fields and began looking to move.
In August 2013, the Washington City Council agreed to end that lease so the land could be used for other things, including the possibility of a dog park.
“At this point, it’s going to be a dog park pending the funding to develop it,” Dunkle said.
The Youth Sports Association was given a 180-day notice that the lease would be ending. That time ran out in early February.
Dunkle told the parks board that before any work on a dog park could begin, some maintenance work needs to be done first. That work is slated to begin when the volatile winter weather calms down.
“As soon as this weather breaks, and we get time, we’re going to start cleaning up some of the trees in that area,” Dunkle said.
Dunkle said much of the work that needs to be done at the park is to help the park recover from neglect.
“Some of the things we want to do just for aesthetics,” Dunkle said. “Not a whole lot of maintenance has been done to the property in a while other than just brush-hogging three or four times a year.”
Once the initial cleanup is finished, Dunkle said the park would fall into the regular maintenance schedule.
“Hopefully, when the weather breaks here soon, we’ll be mowing it on a weekly basis,” Dunkle said.
Dunkle said an official dog park could open quickly if money for the project is secured.
“It could be ready as soon as funds are available, and I don’t know when that’s going to be,” Dunkle said.
In the past pro-dog park groups have pushed for extra amenities at the park, like water fountains and restrooms. Dunkle said from a project standpoint, those are all viable plans.
“Some of that wouldn’t be that difficult to do because we already have existing water and sewer lines,” Dunkle said. “The biggest constraint right now is funding.”
To get money, Dunkle said he will be looking at the budget for next year, but said that won’t be enough.
“I think it’s going to be a combination of things,” Dunkle said. “We’ll look at next year’s budget and see if we can put in some things. We’ll also look for donations from volunteers and also we’ll look at grant opportunities that might be out there. Between the three, hopefully, we can get this project moving along.”
The dog park would be the first permanent park in Washington. Dog owners currently can use Burger Park as a dog park, but the park is closed to dogs during soccer season.
The Washington Dog Park Group, who at the Feb. 6 meeting said they had raised more than $1,000 for the park by selling calendars, had previously expressed concern over the Simonds Avenue location.
During a meeting last July, Julie West, dog park group leader, told the board there are drainage problems at the park with several inches of standing water in some places. She said there also is a sulfur smell in the area.
Park board members told West and the others the water issue would have to be addressed if the land was designated as a dog park and that the sulfur smell could be attributed to something other than the treatment plant.
At that meeting West suggested additional areas, but Dunkle said there was no money in the budget to buy new land.