Council rejects pooch proposal King Park ruled inappropriate as site for dog run

July 28, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Westminster Common Council unanimously rejected a proposal by dog lovers last night to create a fenced-in area where dogs could run free in King Park, but said they would seek an alternate site for the facility.

After hearing testimony from about two dozen citizens, the council voted 4-0 to refer the matter back to the city's park board, saying that King Park "is not an appropriate location" for the proposed dog park. The council also asked county officials to help identify a suitable location.

Two council members, Gregory Pecoraro and Damian L. Halstad, suggested that proponents of the dog park consider the Carroll County Humane Society, just north of Westminster on Route 97, or the Landon C. Burns Park near the Carroll County Farm Museum as potential sites.

But before any site can be approved, a neighborhood must accept it, said Pecoraro, the council's liaison to the city park board.

"Obviously, King Park is not the right place for it," Pecoraro said. "But in fairness to those who worked so hard on this issue, I feel we should try to look for an appropriate site."

About a year ago, Laurie Walters, a Park Avenue resident and civic activist, proposed fencing about 1 acre of a little-used section of the city's 5-acre King Park, off Chase and Bond streets.

The park, she said, would provide a place for dogs to exercise and socialize with other animals.

The proposal prompted more than a dozen angry letters to City Hall. About 70 people signed a petition opposing the creation of a dog park, and more than a dozen people spoke against the plan last night.

"This [dog park proposal] has taken on a life of its own," said Lee Josephs. "I mean, is it really the government's responsibility to teach our pets social graces?"

Several others expressed concern about irresponsible pet owners who failed to clean up after their dogs.

Walters addressed their concerns by showing a three-minute home video she had taken while visiting dog parks in Greenbelt and Arlington, Va. The video showed dogs running and playing, with several dog owners speaking in favor of the park.

The idea for a dog park won the support of the Humane Society of Carroll County and the local kennel club. The parks board endorsed the concept in November. About a dozen people spoke in favor of the dog park last night.

"I think it's a good idea," said Nicky Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County. "In an urban setting such as Westminster, it's nice to be able to have a place to take dogs off leash. It helps them burn off energy. and also makes the dog a much more socialized animal, which benefits the entire community."

Walters said she had bids of $3,400 and $3,940 for a fence.

At an April 6 budget hearing, a proposed $2,500 city expenditure for fencing the dog park drew criticism -- and jokes -- from Mayor dTC Kenneth A. Yowan and two council members. It was eliminated from the city's proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

After city funding was killed, dog lovers gathered 59 signatures on a petition in favor of a park for their pooches. The petition was submitted to the Common Council on April 27.

The dog lovers' actions prompted the council to re-examine the issue.

Pub Date: 7/28/98

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