Posted on

Partnerships needed to make dog park a reality

A group of area residents came before the Medford City Council Monday night to make a sales pitch for a proposed dog park in the city limits.

Dog parks are fenced in areas where the owners of dogs can bring them to run off-leash and socialize with other dogs and their owners. The areas range from small parcels to spacious multi-acre lots. In many communities, the parks have been developed on marginal property or on areas that have been redeveloped from landfills or other uses.

Rather than attempting to carve out a space in an existing park, the plan proposed by a group of area residents works with a local industry and eyes a currently undeveloped 8.92-acre section of meadow between the Campus Woods and the industrial park.

The area, which borders countyowned woods and wetlands, has been undeveloped largely due to the challenges of accessing it. Developing it for use as a dog park is a worthy idea and a good way to provide buffer between the industrial park and the nearby residential neighborhoods.

City government must take an active role in helping with the planning and development of the proposed park. It is unrealistic to expect that a private group will be able to indefinitely maintain it on their own or would have the ability to address infrastructure needs such as extension of water lines or for developing and maintaining restroom facilities. It is better for the city to be involved as a partner now, during the planning stages, so that it can be tied into the long-range plans for the city and issues can be addressed in the planning process rather than dealing with expensive changes later. It also makes sense from a long-term sustainability standpoint that the city be a partner in helping maintain the facility in a safe manner.

Access to the area has been a primary reason the meadow has remained undeveloped. The dog park organizing group has proposed access points through the county-owned Campus Woods and a second through the parking lot to the north of Nestle’s facility. While the parking lot access would be ideal, it will require the development of a private railroad crossing in the area. With Canadian National in the process of seeking regulatory approval of transferring control of Wisconsin rail lines, it is a good time to make a case for the private crossing for the seldom-used section of rail. Organizers should seek the help of Sen. Jerry Petrowski, who heads the transportation committee, to assist in the process of getting a crossing.

The second access point is through the Campus Woods trail. The trails in the woods are used year-round by people who enjoy a rustic experience adjacent to town. In the winter the trails are groomed for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. In the warmer months it is common to see hikers and runners on the trails. County and city government must be involved to balance the needs of these existing stakeholders with those of others who want to use the Donald St. trailhead as a primary access for the dog park.

It will take a community effort with public and private partnership to make the dream of a dog park a reality.