The Dog Park Committee is proposing an area at Wheeler Homestead as the location for South Burlington’s next dog park.

Committee Chair Barb Sirvis will go before the city council on June 3 with a proposal and hopes to come away with an approval.

“We looked at so many locations and this one was clearly the best,” she said. “It doesn’t intrude on neighborhoods, and it’s big enough to have a good space for large dogs.”

The homestead area next to the Wheeler Nature Park is an approximate location, Sirvis said, and the exact area to be used for the dog park will be set once a specific site plan is completed. The area is located next to Cairns Arena and Veterans Memorial Park.

The 140-acre park is undeveloped, but has pedestrian trails for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. There are several scenic areas along the trails. Currently the old Calkins House at Wheeler Nature Park houses Common Roots and The Friends of the Library. There are community garden plots for rent during the growing season. 

Wheeler Homestead and Nature Park are owned by the city. The dog park would take up at least 1.5 acres. If approved by the council, water lines would be installed to provide drinking water for dogs, as well as split rail fencing and boulders to denote the park using the natural contours of the area, Sirvis said.

“It’s going to be nice-looking,” she said. “The split rail fence will have wire mesh, so the aesthetic is in keeping with the area. The boulders and tree stumps will be used as play areas for dogs that also fit into the environment. It’s central, and has become a central area for the community.”

The committee is right on schedule for its June 3 presentation, which has been planned for months. The proposal is the result of an online public survey and two community forums the committee held to gather public input. Roughly 50 people attended the last forum on May 15, Sirvis said.

“All kinds of perspectives were represented,” she said. “They were constructive and positive and no one stood up and said, ‘I object.’”

The estimated cost of building the dog park remains roughly $55,000. Sirvis said the committee has already received its first donation of $500. There is also $25,00 in the city budget to help establish the new dog park and pay for items like fencing and water lines. Sirvis said the committee is also hoping for more donations, as well as grant funding, but says city council approval is key.

“Once the city council says ‘yes,’ we can go to local businesses and foundations for grants, and there are many local people who want to donate, so I’m hopeful.”

A Friends of the Dog Park community group will also be formed, along with a Facebook page with information and a place for people to make suggestions and donations.

The committee is also proposing an increase in the city dog license fees from $21 a year to $25.

“We currently have 1,300 registered dogs in South Burlington,” she said. “That’s $5,200 that could be set aside for establishing a new dog park or for an existing park. We’re hoping more people will license their dogs after we do a community awareness campaign.”

The only other dog park in South Burlington is located on Farrell Street, and the committee is hoping to make improvements there as well this year. If Wheeler Homestead works out, Sirvis said she hopes there can be a third dog park in the city’s future.

“Dogs help people connect, so where dogs play, people play,” she said. “So we’re providing a place where dogs can be dogs and humans can interact. It creates community.”

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