By Becky Mickel
The Dog Park Steering Committee is working with Lexington’s Department of Planning and Development to draft an application for a dog park at Woods Creek Park.
The committee members — Carol Grigsby, Sammy Moore, Stevie Bond, Cera Wadsworth and Pat Ohleger — are Lexington residents proposing to fence in and re-landscape a section of Woods Creek Park where White Street turns into McLaughlin Street, Mayor Mimi Elrod said.
Wadsworth said the committee envisions a one-acre plot divided in half: one area for small dogs and one area for large dogs. The committee suggests that dog leashes be optional.
The committee pitched the idea for a local dog park to the Lexington City Council almost a year ago, but the location at Woods Creek Park is just now being seriously considered, Lexington City Council Member Marylin Alexander said.
Wadsworth said the park would provide local residents with a safe and convenient place for their dogs to play.
The city will need to approve a conditional use permit before the dog park can be opened. Residents will be invited to speak at a public hearing before the permit is approved, Planning Commission Vice Chair Camille Miller said. No date has been set.
Lexington resident Sally Carter lives on Overhill Drive, within eyesight and earshot of Woods Creek Park. Carter enjoys the view of the park from her home, but she doesn’t want to hear it.
“The [area] is peaceful, tranquil and beautiful,” Carter said. “I’d hate to see a serene setting turned into a loud, barking dog park.”
Carter said building a dog park in a park made for children, whether her grandchildren or the children attending Waddell Elementary School, isn’t safe. Waddell is on Jordan Street, one block from the proposed dog park.
Carter attended a Lexington City Council meeting last year to oppose the dog park and sent a letter stating her concerns to City Manager Jon Ellestad.
Jackson Avenue resident Mike Murphy also opposes the project. He said the safety of children, dogs and dog owners is at stake. Murphy worries some dog owners might drop off their dogs at the park and then leave to shop and eat lunch downtown.
“If two dogs got in a fight, who would break it up?” Murphy said.
Murphy said the area should have a dog park, but not one located at Woods Creek Park. And he said plans for a dog park at the Virginia Horse Center make another such park in Lexington unnecessary.
“This place isn’t big enough for two or three of the same thing.”
But construction has not begun on a dog park at the Horse Center, about four miles from Woods Creek Park. Even if it is built, some think it would be too far from town for Lexington dog owners to conveniently use.
Many Lexington residents support the city dog park initiative, Wadsworth said. The Committee is collecting community signatures both with an online petition and a printed one. So far, the online petition has more than 180 signatures.
Lexington residents Paul and Anne Marie Renzi own three dogs: Dexter, Daisy and Ben.
The Wisconsin natives were shocked to find that Lexington did not have a dog park.
“The parks in Wisconsin were the size of football fields,” Anne Marie said.
The Renzis support building a dog park and plan to donate money once the committee begins fundraising.
Wadsworth said a 5-foot chain link fence, concrete, signage, dog mitts for cleanup, a trashcan and a water fountain for dogs could cost between $20,000 and $30,000.
The Dog Park Committee committed to pay for all construction costs and agreed to create a fund for future upkeep of the park, Alexander said.
Wadsworth said the committee will ask City Council to cover mowing costs.
A dog park is included in Lexington City Council’s “Vision 2026,” a comprehensive plan to improve the city’s outdoors by 2026.
Although City Council did not plan for a dog park in this year’s budget, Alexander said it might eventually allocate tax dollars to the park’s upkeep because it is included in Vision 2026.
Wadsworth said a dog park is beneficial for both dogs and people.
“It’s a great way to socialize. It’s good for people to talk about the things they love.”