“In the meantime, I’d really like to hear from dog owners in our community,” he said. “Those people could really help make it happen.”
There are currently no off-leash dog parks in Washington County.
Councilman Forrest W. Easton raised the issue of liability for bites or injuries while inside the park, as well as how it would be kept clean.
Tissue said that if the park is open to residents free of charge, it would release the city’s liability, which would then fall solely on the dogs’ owners. The park would have to be “self-policing” when it came to animal waste cleanup, and several waste stations would be set up throughout the facility for that purpose, he said.
Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, attended Tuesday’s meeting with the five-member council and offered comments on the proposed park.
Miller warned city officials about the dangers of mixing “people parks” with dog parks, since some people are afraid of dogs or vice versa. It could cause potential behavioral issues with the pets, he said.
Tissue downplayed the issue, saying that Hager Park is not a high-traffic area, especially throughout the week.
“It’s used some on the weekends,” he said. “It’s a beautiful park, but it’s not heavily utilized.”
The playground equipment currently at the park, which is out of date and will be up for replacement in the near future, could be moved farther away from the proposed dog park to help alleviate any concerns, Tissue said.
“I think we can find ways to separate and not cause any problems,” 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 in nearby Frederick, Md., and Chambersburg, Pa., Tissue said.
The construction of the park is estimated to cost about $35,000, mostly for fencing and entrance vestibules, but Miller offered the idea of partnering with the Humane Society on the project.
Miller said it could be possible to sell benches with plaques in memory of former pets to park users, or explore other avenues to help offset costs for construction and other features. More trees and a gazebo were discussed as possible ways to provide more shade to the area.