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March 17. 2014 7:35PM

Keene to hold public hearings regarding dog park in city

KEENE — The possibility of adding a dog park to city amenities will be part of the discussion at two public hearings on Wheelock Park this week, Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Bohannon said Monday.

The Parks and Recreation Department is hosting two public forums Wednesday. The first forum is planned for the afternoon from 3:30 to 5 p.m. An evening session is planned from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Both forums will be held in the multipurpose room of the Recreation Center at 312 Washington Street.

Gathering public input is the first step in a community-wide discussion on the park that is being conducted by GreenPlay, LLC, a Colorado-based parks, recreation and open space consultant hired by the city to conduct an active and passive recreation master plan a few years ago.

Part of GreenPlay’s 2012 report to the city included a recommendation that the city study and establish comprehensive plans for some of the city parks including Wheelock, Bohannon said.

“The park right now has a considerable amount of use. Right now Wheelock Park plays home to two softball diamonds, two Cal Ripken (baseball) diamonds, twenty-four horseshoe pits, a forty-one campsite camping area, two tennis courts, two play areas, a pool, a hockey arena and a volleyball court. That’s all within that forty-one acres,” Bohannon said.

Over the years, the park has hosted national softball and horseshoe tournaments, Bohannon said. It would be a good idea to take a look at updating some of the buildings and facilities there, such as the bathrooms, as well as studying what other facilities could benefit the park, he said.

But the study of Wheelock Park was also prompted by a request from city officials that the Parks and Recreation Department find a suitable location for a city dog park, Bohannon said.

Residents first came to the city in 2010 with a petition, signed by about 60 residents, asking for a dog park.

The city proposed adding a park to Bent Court, but that was opposed strongly by residents at public hearings.

Currently at Wheelock because the softball and baseball diamonds are fenced in, dog owners tend to visit the fields and let their dogs run free. The dogs leave waste that the dog owners fail to pick up, so it creates a maintenance problem for the city.

A dog park at Wheelock would direct dog owners away from the fields, Bohannon said.

“A lot of people already walk their dogs through the fields so if Wheelock Park is considered and is able to host a dog park it benefits the people that are already taking their dogs there,” Bohannon said.

Adding another activity to the park would also build on what is already there, creating a social hub.

“Dog parks are great amenities for communities because they create a social area not just for the dogs, but their owners,” Bohannon said.

Adding a skate park is also under consideration, Bohannon said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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