Proposed Dog Park Must Have Public Support
Published 12:01 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2014
FARMVILLE — Town council is determined to find out if public support for a proposed dog park is all bark and no bite.
Without a commitment of long-term public support, of both time and fundraising, the Town is unlikely to move forward.
Local veterinarian, Dr. Mark A. French, has pledged to donate up to $10,000 for the project, which the Town estimates will have $31,450 in start-up costs and $175 in monthly expenses.
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That degree of generosity makes Town officials more determined to ensure there is enough public support for a dog park to be a lasting success.
“Dr. French has been gracious enough to donate $10,000 toward the cost of this dog park…I, personally, along with the rest of my council members, we want to make sure that we do not spend $10,000 of someone else’s money without making sure that this thing will go,” said Tommy Pairet, chairman of council’s Town Assets and Resources Committee, which is assigned scrutiny of the proposal and will make the final recommendation to town council.
“I don’t want to see us try to make it happen and then participation falls off and it falls back on the Town of Farmville and we have to maintain it or upkeep it or pay the expenses,” Pairet said during last week’s October council meeting.
The site of the proposed dog park has not been determined. When a location is finally identified and formally proposed, no blade of grass will be touched without the promise of public support.
Pairet said he and his fellow committee members, Jamie Davis and Dan Dwyer, came to the conclusion that town residents must be told the project’s costs so the Town can “see whether or not they’re dedicated enough and willing to come up and meet us with some cost in order to be able to operate this thing.”
That commitment must be more like a marriage than a date.
“It’s going to be a long-term partnership,” Pairet said, “where the town residents are going to have to be willing and able to do fundraising to help us defray the cost of this project, as well as be a willing participant in taking care of it and monitoring it…”
That commitment is priority one.
“First and foremost,” Pairet emphasized, “we’ve got to have a strong showing of support from the citizens of the Town of Farmville that are willing dedicate their time and the trouble to this thing along with us, and partner with us, in order for this to work.”
When a final site has been chosen, and all available cost estimates gathered and verified, a public hearing will be scheduled and that meeting will determine the proposed dog park’s fate.
“Let the public speak for themselves of what they’re willing to do, what they’re willing to commit to,” Pairet said, looking toward that opportunity for public comment, “and we kind of evaluate and see where we are from there.”
Creation of a dog park has been on the trail of Town officials for years. A Farmville Needs A Dog Park Facebook page has even been established.
Ridge Animal Hospital vet, Dr. French, 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.”
Vigorous, sustained citizen support is the only way it’s going to happen.
“The next step is to have a strong turnout by the general public showing support and they’re willing to work with us,” Pairet said, “and that’s where we are with this.”
Partnerships between localities and “friends-of” groups are relatively common in Virginia and Town officials zeroed-in on that concept from the very outset when the subject was seriously broached several months ago.
Chesterfield County’s Ruff House Dog Park in Rockwood Park depends on The Friends of Ruff House, for example. 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.”
And there are abundant opportunities for the Friends group. The website details that volunteers meet once a month to discuss park improvements, plan events and fundraising. “We hold events at the park to raise awareness and money. We make decisions on what the money will be spent on. We police the park and make sure the rules are enforced. We have fun ,” the website states.
That group is so serious it is pursuing official non-profit status.
What other responsibilities do the dog park’s volunteers embrace?
“We work with Chesterfield County Parks to maintain the park. We empty trash cans, stock the poop bags, clean up the park, repair the fences and shade structures, supply water bowls and toys.”
The Town of Farmville is looking for a similar commitment.