Proposed Dog Park Gets $10K Pledge From Dr. French

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, September 9, 2014

FARMVILLE — The idea of a dog park for the Farmville area has been pawing and sniffing its way around for several years, with a variety of people keen to see the goal achieved.

With the Town of Farmville acting on those community desires and seriously looking for a site to accommodate a dog park, local veterinarian Dr. Mark A. French has pledged to donate up to $10,000 for the project.

“I thought that was very generous of him to do that,” Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates said Thursday.

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The Ridge Animal Hospital vet told The Herald, “a few years ago there were some local citizens who were trying to get up a dog park and it just never happened. And I do think it’s a very good thing. Certainly there are a number of folks who have pets and all they’re able to do is walk them on a leash. It would be wonderful if they would be allowed to run and get the exercise that they want to have and need. So a dog park seems like a really great way for that to happen.”

The veterinarian said he was glad to be able “to help, in my little way.”

Town council discussed the subject again during its September work session last week and a council committee is looking for potential sites.

“I guess the big thing,” Spates told council members, “is finding where we’re going to put it.”

The Town’s land options are limited, said Tommy Pairet, chairman of council’s Town Assets and Resources Committee, which is studying the issue. “There’s not a lot of open space. We’ll need to be creative about how we do it,” he said.

Mayor Whitus agreed that “it’s not a simple solution and council’s working on it and it will take a little time.”

The Town, which is gathering information from dog parks around the state, is looking at a fenced-in area of 200 feet by 75 feet. The potential sites may include acreage behind STEPS and property off Industrial Park Road, near Piedmont Regional Jail—both properties are owned by the Town.

But the Town is casting a wide eye at various possibilities and the committee will gnaw on the issue and come back with a recommendation.

Dog parks offer opportunities for the animals to exercise and socialize in a safe environment. Ruff House Dog Park, owned by Chesterfield County and located in Rockwood Park, offers two kennels with benches and plenty of water for the dogs to keep hydrated while they play.

The park’s website describes the facility’s mission as providing a fenced-in, off-leash dog park “where well-behaved canine citizens can exercise in a clean, safe environment without endangering people, property, other dogs or wildlife.”

That park is one that may provide a blueprint for the Town’s plans.

Dr. French is glad the dog park scent has been picked up and potential sites tracked down.

“Simply put, dog parks are a good thing,” he said, “and if we can get one here I think it would be a wonderful thing for the community and the pets that live here, as well.”

If a dog park is established by the Town, many in the community will applaud because it will be a consummation devoutly wished by many.

Looking back, Spates said, “the way this whole thing started, we had a couple of inquiries about a dog park. And a matter of fact, it came from…your boss up there (Herald publisher Steve Wall). And Steve brought me a set of plans for a dog park and then I mentioned it to council and I think the council said let’s look into it. And we just happened to have one of the (Boy) Scouts going for his Eagle badge come in asking about a project and I said ‘Why don’t you work on a dog park?’ and so that’s how the dog park thing got going with the Boy Scouts.”

During the public comments portion of town council’s July meeting, additional thrust came from Jake Milne and Sharon Menegoni, who spoke about the community’s interest in an off-leash dog park.

The duo addressed the benefits for both pets and their owners, the latter being able to meet other people with whom they share a common interest while their pets exercise and socialize.

Milne and Menegoni told council about the Farmville Needs A Community Dog Park Facebook page, which, at that time, had garnered over 200 “likes.”

A request was made for a Town donation of land to accommodate the project, which they foresaw having a separate area for small dogs. Council members were told the group of interested citizens would raise funds and build the park, were the Town to donate property.

While council has not specifically discussed the pair’s offer, Town officials appear keen to mirror Chesterfield County’s Ruff House approach, which partners with the volunteer group The Friends of Ruff House.

Clearly, in any case, community interest in a dog park has been coming from many different points of the compass.

Last week, Spates said he did not know the status of the scout’s project but offered that a dog park is “a pretty detailed project, especially for an Eagle Scout project…for somebody to do it. So we’ve been getting information together.”

As Pairet said during town council’s work session last week, “there’s a lot to it.”

Yes, Spates replied to the councilman, “it is. You’re looking at fencing an area of 200 by 75 feet. It’s pretty expensive.”

And now the Town has a pledged donation of up to $10,000 to help make human and canine dreams come true.