Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NEIGHBORS >> Rotary speaker talks about potential of city dog park

BY PAUL PETERSON
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The president of the Jacksonville Dog Park Club discusses the advantages of a canine recreation area in Dupree Park.

Jacksonville Dog Park Club president Dan Limke told Jacksonville Rotary Club members Monday that with the help of a few successful fund-raisers, Dupree Park lies on the verge of becoming one of among the 700 stomp-and-sniff parks for which dog owners nationwide are howling praise and gratitude.

“Across the United States, these parks have opened a whole new set of services to exercise dogs, let them run off-leash legally, mingle, and live happier, healthier lives,” Limke said.

“Visiting Murray Park in Little Rock, and dog parks in Maumelle and Burns Park proved how popular and well-received they are. During one visit, we counted the arrival of 60 people in 90 minutes.”

The proposed area for the park consists of the wooded area at the southwest corner of Dupree Lake because of availability of shade and open ground, access to water and adequate parking.

Of the four acres designated for canine recreation, fences will need posting.

Limke said two separate sections would accommodate large and small breeds, and would grant access for mowing equipment and overflow parking for large events such as the Wing Ding Festival.

In its two proposals to Jacksonville city officials, the six-member dog park committee outlined benefits to local dog owners and demonstrated why Dupree Park would be the best location to install such enhancements.

Characteristics such as location, size, popularity, landscape, parking availability and proximity to the city’s animal shelter make it attractive and quite feasible, Limke said.

“Dog parks are places dogs are allowed to legally run off their leash, and benefit progressive communities by providing a specific area to socialize and exercise dogs in a safe environment,” he said. “Our goal as a club is promotion of responsible pet ownership.”

A fenced area consisting of two separate sections would accommodate both large and small breeds, while allowing access for mowing equipment and overflow parking. It also is surrounded by plenty of ground to buffer dog park activity from ballpark and residential areas to the north and east.

Limke said two long vertical rows will provide access through a five-foot rubberized fence with entrance gates at each side, preventing dogs from entering the lake adjacent to the park. The rubber fence will minimize urinary corrosion.

Limke said a portion of the cost to develop the dog park would be financed by general funds of Jacksonville Parks and Recrea-tion’s budget.

The dog park committee would generate funds toward the purchase of additional amenities such as benches, tables, lights and dog recreation equipment.

Various community fundraisers, private and corporate contributions and a vigorous publicity campaign are vital.
Limke said the time frame in which to secure funds to open the dog park is of primary concern.

Fundraising efforts are being scheduled to help pay the approximate $10,000 the dog club needs, which include dog washes, photo shoots, and a manufactured doghouse contest on Oct. 22.

Paved name inscriptions on brick walkways will recognize donors. “City funds won’t be available after this year, so we’ve only got a limited time to get this off the ground,” Limke said.

“The parks and recreation budget allocates available funding through the end of the year, which is why we’re doing all we can to get the word out and come up with as many ideas as possible to raise money for this.”

The dog park could likely become a source for additional revenue through rentals for dog-related activities. Limke believes visitors from in and around Jacksonville would enhance the local economy.

Maintenance and patrol of the park would include routine inspections to remove trash and leftover dog deposits, as well as examining fence conditions.

Limke said these responsibilities would become part of the regular routine of the parks and recreation employees, and Jacksonville Animal Shelter would include the dog park among its routine Dupree Park patrol.

Limke said city pet ordinances prohibit untagged and vicious dogs from the park.

“The same ordinances apply to the park as they do for a shelter,” he said. When asked of foreseeable circumstances of pet abandonment, he said, “Most abandoned pets are left at shelters, not at dog parks.”

As for cleanliness, Limke said, “Dog parks stay pretty clean. They’re self-policed; people are generally responsible for cleaning up after their pets.”

The growing popularity of dog parks nationwide keeps Limke optimistic about local enthusiasm.
“Across the country, so many people live in apartments with dogs who have no room to run,” he said.

“These parks become a social environment. It’s just as much for people as it is for dogs.”

Before Limke’s discussion, club president Thea Hughes announced a donation request to send a Jacksonville child to a five-day asthma camp in Little Rock in late July.

Members agreed by voice vote to donate $600, the amount given last year for the same cause.

Before adjourning, members expressed admiration and gratitude toward Jacksonville firefighters who volunteered time to reposition tombstones overturned at the vandalized Bayou Meto Cemetery.