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Hagerstown officials hope they're barking up the right tree with dog park proposal

City council to hear plan Tuesday

August 20, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

About 39 percent of United States households own dogs, and parks specifically designed for dogs and their owners are growing in popularity across the country, a Hagerstown official said Monday.

“Many other communities have these,” city Engineer Rodney Tissue said. “It’s very popular.”

For several years, the City of Hagerstown has been looking to build its own off-leash dog park for local pets and owners, and the idea appears to be gaining steam.

Tissue and city’s Parks Superintendent Junior Mason will present plans for a proposed dog park to the Hagerstown City Council at Tuesday’s work session meeting, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

There are currently no off-leash parks for dogs in the county, Mason said.

“We’ve been trying for a long time to bring one to Washington County,” he said.

Dog parks began in the U.S. more than 30 years ago, with the first official one opening in 1979, Tissue said. There are about 1,200 dog parks in the country, including parks in nearby Frederick, Md., and Chambersburg, Pa., he said.

Dog parks create a sense of community, benefit the local economy, promote dog ownership, and provide health and socialization benefits for owners and animals alike, Tissue said.

“In reality, dog parks are not for dogs, but are really for dog owners,” Tissue wrote in a memo to the five-member city council.

The proposed location for Hagerstown’s dog park is in the northeast corner of Hager Park, next to Municipal Stadium.

While the tract — about two-thirds of an acre — is a little smaller than recommended, Tissue said he thinks it’s an excellent location.

There are no private residences nearby and about 25 parking spaces are adjacent to the site. Also, public restrooms, a pavilion and a play area are within 200 feet.

Tissue said city staff have discussed the proposed park with the Humane Society of Washington County and surrounding communities that have successfully implemented similar parks to get a handle on what features and amenities would be needed.

According to the proposal, there would be a fence around the perimeter of the park, which will be separated into two cells — one for “bold” dogs, the other for “timid” dogs.

Staff members also recommend installing an “airlock area,” where a dog and its owner would enter the park and shut the first door behind them before opening the next door to enter the play area. At least four waste stations will be set up in each cell area and a sanitizer dispenser could be placed near the airlock.

The proposal also recommends several new shade trees and mulch or grass inside the park’s play areas. Public water is available at the site for drinking fountains, for both dogs and humans.

City staff also plan to discuss the rules of using the park Tuesday.

Construction of the park is estimated to cost $35,000, mostly for the fencing and vestibules but also for benches, water dispensers, pet waste control stations, mulch, an access path, a bridge and additional trees.

In the proposal, city staff members said the funding could come from excise tax money collected from land development in the city. Other options include working with local pet stores for contributions and seeking grants for various features of the park.

The city also might look into using a permit system under which owners would have dogs screened to gain access to the park. If a card-swipe system were implemented for entrance, only permit holders would be allowed to enter, according to the proposal.

Tissue said the proposed park is in the preliminary stages and a final decision by the city council is not expected Tuesday. He said he expects final plans to be presented for approval in a month or two.

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