Members of dog park committee talk about what’s next

By Gary Scott on September 20, 2015 at 7:29am

Members of a committee that promoted Jacksonville’s participation in this summer’s contest to win a dog park are moving forward now that the city has won the grand prize.

The national contest sponsored by PetSafe means Jacksonville will get $100-thousand to build the park, which is to be built on city land east of Nichols Park.

At a meeting at the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living on Wednesday, members of the Jacksonville Bark for your Park Committee heard from a representative of the University of Illinois who suggested student engineers could design the park.

The committee is also considering Graham and Hyde Architects of Springfield, according to committee president Larry Whewell.

Whewell says committee members will meet next Thursday with the Jacksonville Parks and Lakes Committee.

“That’s going to be their first meeting with the Parks and Lakes Committee. They’re trying to see what they want us to do, or would like for us to do, and then we meet back in two weeks and they’ll bring that report back to the whole committee here of what the city’s thoughts are,” he says. “We’re kind of just getting our feet off the ground as far as the design process.”

Whewell notes even though Jacksonville won a $100-thousand grand prize, PetSafe still has the money.

“As we design the park, we can request reimbursement, say, for the fence or the sidewalks, and then we get that money. We don’t actually have it in the bank,” Whewell says.

“We’ve been doing some small fundraisers to raise a little extra money on the side, because even though $100,000 sounds like a lot, it’s going to take a lot of that money just to do the fencing and the water, the lights, and all that stuff.”

Also at the meeting, results of a survey taken by about 150 people were shared. Most people who took it said they’d bring their dog to the new park at least once a week, and that the area and size of the park, as well as park maintenance, was the top priority.

The majority of survey-takers also indicated they’d like to see water fountains for people and dogs, as well as shaded areas. The greatest concern expressed was dog conflicts.

Some at the meeting were concerned about comments that have apparently been made by community members that Jacksonville doesn’t need a dog park. Others pointed out that once the community actually sees the dog park, it might silence any naysayers.

The Bark for Your Park Committee is looking for ideas for the new park. Their next meeting is October 7th.

Clarification: the upcoming meeting this week is not with a full committee, but rather leaders of the Parks and Lakes Committee and the city’s development coordinator. A full, public meeting will be scheduled at a later date.