Salted with Sharks

All Dogs Go to “Heaven”?

In Open Season on October 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

By Liz Padalino

ON LABOR DAY WEEKEND, area dog lovers and their canine counterparts were surprised by the notice that loomed at the entrance to the Frankfort Dog Park, located at the Frankfort–Elberta High School track. It read simply DOG PARK CLOSED. After 16 months of successful dog days, the gates to this ad hoc dog park were closed, it seemed, for good. The organizers are now looking across the bay to Anderson Park as an option for more a permanent dog playground.

According to Jordan Bates, a cofounder of Frankfort Dog Park with Aubrey Ann Parker and John Vinkemulder, the high school location was never official and never intended to be permanent. Rather, it was an experiment to demonstrate the community’s need for a dog park.

The Frankfort Dog Park averaged 20 attendees during the designated times of Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings, and attendance was growing. Some people came from as far away as Honor for the opportunity to socialize their dogs and let them off the leash legally. Although most parks in Elberta, except for the Waterfront Park, allow dogs, they must be leashed at all times. For many dogs, it is impossible to get enough exercise on a leash, especially if their owner has limited mobility.

“They have certainly shown a need for a dog park” says Frankfort–Elberta Schools superintendent Tom Stobie, who says he decided to close the former dog park because of concerns about sanitation and complaints from people who were uncomfortable sharing the track with unleashed dogs. “Now it’s time to move on.”

And move on they did. At the September 15 Village Council meeting,  John Vinkemulder, Jordan Bates, and Aubrey Parker submitted a proposal to retrofit Anderson Park as a dog park. Adjacent landowners were subsequently to be given a copy of the dog park proposal and asked to write a note to the council with their reaction to the plan. “This way we’ll know how people feel about it, since they’d be living right next to it,” explained Village president Reg Manville. The results from this poll will likely be the deciding factor as to whether or not the park will be converted. Manville declined to offer a sneak peek on the attitudes of the landowners he talked to. “It will be discussed at the October council meeting,” he said.

The Dog Park team consider Anderson Park an ideal location because a lot of fencing is already in place, and the park is easily accessible, even for the handicapped, and visible from the street. An alternative location in Elberta would be the field next to the old baseball diamond by the Village Community Building. Elberta is being a lot more proactive about the issue than Frankfort, Bates says. “We are going to focus our efforts on developing the Elberta dog park,” he said. Bates would ideally like to see dog parks in both areas. But discussions about a permanent dog park have been going on in Frankfort for three plus years. That’s a 21-year wait in dog time.

If the Anderson Park plan is approved by the council, the basketball court will be fenced off and gates installed for safely getting in and out of the dog area. The fencing would cost around $5,000. The dog park proponents would oversee fundraising for this project, which would incur no cost to the Village of Elberta.

You may remember Mr. Tom Votruba’s July 17 contribution to the Alert website, an account of his timid dog Schmee overcoming social insecurities and playing with the other dogs at the Frankfort dog park. This story is likely among countless others that highlight how dog parks contribute to community well-being. The dog isn’t just a place for dogs to exercise; “it’s a people park for people with dogs,” says Bates. “I’ve made more friends in the past year at the dog park than I have made in the past ten years,” he said.

The Dog Park Proposal may be viewed on the Web here.

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