Trying To Go Fetch A Dog Park; Attendance At January 28 Meeting Will Be Crucial
Published 2:56 pm Thursday, January 22, 2015
FARMVILLE — A proposed dog park will either sit and stay or roll over and out based on attendance next Wednesday night at a 7 p.m. public meeting in the Farmville Train Station.
Turnout on January 28 is critical and Jake Milne knows it.
“Big meeting,” agrees the Longwood University Associate Professor of Sociology and one of the community catalysts behind the citizen-initiated idea.
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Everything is riding on it.
“That is correct,” he nods.
Town council has made it clear—the only way a dog park will be constructed on property the Town will donate for the project is if a citizens group pays for its construction and maintenance and is responsible for the daily operation.
“We really do want to assess interest,” Milne said. “If we get there on Wednesday night and there are three people there we’re going to put our head in our hands and cry.”
But a smile you can hear crosses his face.
“I don’t envision that,” the owner of a seven-year old yellow lab named Maggie Mae said of the doomsday attendance scenario. “I think we really will have quite a few people there.”
Quite a few?
Asked if there is a magic number, at least X number of people he hopes turns out next week, he answers, “I’d like to see at least 200 people.”
He is not joking.
“I may be overly optimistic. I may be,” he acknowledges in a voice that doesn’t lead one to conclude his optimism is based on anything but a realistic expectation of the number of local residents willing to wag the tails of their dogs. “I would love to see that number.”
Word is being spread via several social media platforms and students at Longwood and Hampden-Sydney College have been alerted, too.
“I don’t think 200 is unreasonable, but I think this is certainly a good goal to strive for,” Milne said during a Tuesday morning interview. “I don’t know how many the train station can hold but I think 200 may be pushing the doors out just a little bit.”
He won’t mind that one little bit.
Town council is acquiring property on Virginia Street that adjoins another municipal lot near DMV and will dedicate the land for a dog park.
If, town council’s Town Assets and Resources Committee chairman, Tommy Pairet, told council members in December, “the dog park committee can show us they are committed to making the dog park a go on their own without our assistance, financially…If the dog park committee is so inclined and able to show us they are ready to accept that challenge and move forward with it… and take care of and run the dog park.”
Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates believes the challenge will be accepted. “I think there’s support for it,” he told The Herald this week. “I think it’s going to go through.”
Milne loves the site offered by the Town and is quick to heap praise on Town officials and town council. In particular, council members Pairet, Dan Dwyer and Jamie Davis, the latter two filling out the Pairet-chaired committee responsible for the dog park issue.
“They have been absolutely wonderful working with us,” Milne said, describing the three committee members as “working tirelessly” with them.
Milne and his fellow canine enthusiasts understand that when Town officials say community need and interest must be clearly and emphatically demonstrated they mean a group willing to create and maintain the dog park.
Not simply show up at a meeting, but follow through, as well.
Milne isn’t fazed at all.
“Absolutely there’s that kind of support,” he said.
Local veterinarian Dr. Mark French has already agreed to donate up to $10,000 for creation of the dog park, for which Milne is extremely grateful and finds him concluding that another $20,000 will be needed to make the park “really feasible here in town.”
And everything hinges on next week’s meeting.
“We know there are a lot of dog people in this town so we’re hoping this will stimulate some interest and get people down there,” Milne said, “and start a little bit of a campaign as well.”
There are plenty of examples of public-private dog park partnerships around the state and Milne knows that cooperative approach works—a local government owns the property and a volunteer citizens group runs it and performs daily maintenance.
Those wishing to see that paradigm shift into gear in Farmville are researching operational blueprints through the ASPCA and the American Kennel Club.
“We’ve been looking at a whole lot of those different sources to try to help us figure out,” Milne said, “what the standards will be when we get set up.”
One thing is certain—there will be separate areas for large dogs and small dogs.
“That is absolutely imperative with this,” he said, “so your Pug doesn’t have to mix it up with a Great Dane.”
Milne moved to the area from Northern Virginia where going to a dog park was part of his youth. He believes the site being acquired by the Town is an excellent one and will offer the same excellent recreational and socialization experience for dogs and their owners, alike. Located just two blocks off Main Street, it is accessible to the public and will contribute to the energy level of downtown Farmville.
“I really do like that piece of land…I think it will be a real helpful benefit to those folks in downtown so you can come and know you have that resource for your dog and you can also walk through the center of town so businesses have an opportunity to get some people walking through their doors,” he said, adding, “the other part is it’s right by the High Bridge Trail, which a lot of people use. I really do like it.”
If anything like 199 people with the same opinion show up at next week’s meeting, they will undoubtedly fetch the dog park.