JEFFERSON - Village of Jefferson officials learned about their options in bringing a potential dog park to the village during a committee meeting on Monday, March 6.
Buildings and Lands Committee Chair Lon Damon and member Frank Snyder invited members of the Lake Erie Dog Park Association to the meeting to share how they brought a dog park to Smith Field in the City of Ashtabula. Jefferson Mayor Judy Maloney, Administrator Terry Finger and two Jefferson residents also attended the meeting. Representing the Lake Erie Dog Park Association were Matt Butler, Rose Hunyady, Jen Addair and Dawn Cragon.
Damon said the meeting was being held to talk about a potential dog park in Jefferson. The interest was brought to Jefferson officials attention after a petition was circulated at the Jefferson Recreation Center. Jefferson resident Cynthia Misinec, who was in attendance at the meeting, also gathered signatures on her own.
“I, for one, don’t know a lot about dog parks,” Damon said.
By inviting the Lake Erie Dog Park Association members, village officials hoped to learn more about the cost of building the park, maintaining it and the insurance, as well as the liabilities if someone should be bit by a dog at the park.
Butler said the association helped build the Smith Field Dog Park in 2011, although the group wasn’t formed as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) group until later. He said part of the reason they formed a 501(c)(3) was so they could assist other communities in adding a dog park.
“We’re glad to offer whatever we can,” Butler said.
The association members explained that the Smith Field Dog Park has a split-rail fence, which they found to be significantly cheaper than going with a chainlink fence, and also more attractive. It features two sides - one for large dogs, and one for small dogs, should the owners wish to be separate.
“We built the whole thing in about two days,” Butler said.
With Smith Field being a city park, it is maintained by the city, Hunyady said. Hunyady said guests are asked to follow a set of rules at the park, such as, of course, cleaning up after their pets, and not bringing in dogs in heat.
“We encourage everyone who comes there to have their dogs vaccinated,” Hunyady said.
Butler said they debated setting specific hours, or requiring people to have a membership, but decided against setting too many rules.
“Ultimately, those were just barriers to people using it,” he said.
Butler said, to the best of their knowledge, no one has ever gotten hurt - and no dogs have ever escaped.
As for the cost to build it, the members said it was about $4,400 for the wire, fence and posts. While the city maintains the park because it’s an existing city park, the association paid the cost to build it, with the help of volunteers.
“Almost everything has been paid through donations,” Cragon said. “And we did the work ourselves.”
If village residents are interested in a dog park, they should form a committee and a steering board, Hunyady said. She also stressed the importance of a veterinarian getting on board. The group can solicit businesses for donations and even hang plaques on the fence to acknowledge the donors, she said.
Butler said the group held a couple public meetings about the dog park that were well attended. Thanks to a group of passionate people, they had the dog park built within 90 days of that first meeting, he said.
If it helps, Cragon said, the committee in Jefferson can have people make out their donations to the Lake Erie Dog Park Association, earmarked for the Jefferson Dog Park.
Hunyady suggested that Misinec call people who signed the petition and see if they would be interested in joining the committee.
“You need to get a location. You need to get a size,” Hunyady said.
Village officials also discussed where the potential park could be located, with Finger saying the most talked about area is East Park, which already has a pavilion and a walking trail. And since it’s a village park, the village already maintains it.
Maloney said village officials should measure off an area at East Park to see what’s there, and what kind of space could be given up for a dog park. The measurements also could give an idea about how much fence would need to be purchased - and how much the citizens’ committee would have to raise, since the village would not fund it.
Misinec offered to do her part in forming the citizens’ committee and getting other people involved. People interested in being on the committee may contact Misinec at (440) 576-2596.
“I think it would not only be nice for the dogs, but for people to socialize,” Misinec said.
Although Jefferson may have a lot of people walking their dogs throughout the village, Butler said the appeal of the park isn’t just for people to walk their dog.
“It’s not just a place for dogs. It’s a place for dogs to be off leash,” Butler said.
And the dogs are able to socialize with other dogs, added Hunyady.
During the full council meeting that followed, Damon and Maloney updated council on the next steps, which are residents forming a committee and the village measuring out areas in the park to make sure the park wouldn’t be too close to the pavilion or trail.
“We haven’t really said yes to anything. We’re just looking,” Damon said.