The South Burlington Dog Park Committee is hoping to move forward with plenty of public input for a new dog park in the city.
Committee Chair Barb Sirvis suggested another headline in a recent interview last week.
“’Dog Park Journey Continues’” she said. “We had two dog parks before, plus the one that closed at Jaycee. The result is that we need some dog parks in South Burlington. That’s the bottom line.”
The dog park committee was formed last spring following the recommendation of a dog park taskforce charged with addressing issues of location, noise, and whether to keep open or close the dog parks that used to exist in the city. The issue came to a head in June after petitions were received from residents, one to keep the Jaycee Dog Park open and another to close it.
The task force presented its findings at a council meeting in May in preparation for the re-opening of the Jaycee Dog Park, but the council reversed the opening, and instead directed the group to explore several new locations at Veterans Memorial Park as a potential site.
The task force completed a study of the Veterans Memorial Park sites, but at the June 4 meeting, the task force ultimately recommended that the council put the siting and dog park committee development process on hold to take time to reflect on the process.
Enter the South Burlington Dog Park Committee, which has been meeting regularly since the summer and is ready to take next steps. Sirvis said there are several elements to the group’s work, including researching successful dog park models in Denver, Colo. And Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Both cities did major studies and came out with a strategy and a plan,” Sirvis said. “Obviously, they are much bigger cities, but at least it gives us some guidance, and they’ve been careful and conscientious, and that’s what we’re trying to be.”
Another cornerstone of the committee’s work is a formula for estimating the number of dogs in South Burlington. Sirvis said the committee used a formula from the American Veterinary Association, which states that 36.5 percent of households in a community have a dog. Based on that calculation, Sirvis said the committee estimates that there are roughly 6,000 dogs in South Burlingon. Many dog owners do not register their dogs, but according to City Clerk Donna Kinville, there are 1,213 dogs currently registered with the city.
“Dog owners are a huge stakeholder group in South Burlington,” she said. “The guesstimate is that there are more dog owners than there are parents of kids in school.”
She added that almost 50 percent of South Burlington residents live in multi-family or densely populated areas.
“Meaning they don’t have a place for dogs to play,” Sirvis said. “A dog park is a great place to get out and play, and see their neighbors.”
The committee has met with planning and zoning officials to discuss available city-owned parcels that could be used for a dog park.
Sirvis said the committee plans to garner public input in two ways. First, there will be an online survey to determine what residents would like to see in a dog park, such as size, room to run, and the addition of an agility area.
The survey will be advertised on the city website and other sites, hopefully by late January 2019, Sirvis said.
Once the survey results are collected, the committee plans to hold two public forums, with the first one planned for early February 2019.
“Tell us what you want us to know,” Sirvis said. “What do you want in a dog park. Do you want multiple parks or a couple?”
The committee will take the data from the survey and the information gathered from the forum and narrow down the potential options before holding a second public forum.
The committee will then compile a report of its findings and recommendations based on all of the input and hopes to present it to the city council sometime in May 2019.
“But at this point, we felt it was a good idea for the community to know we are working and engaging them in a discussion and be transparent in our work,” Sirvis said. “My vision is that we will probably come out with a space, hopefully two, by May, and hopefully a plan for more spaces in the city. We can’t promise, but we hope.”
As far as funding goes, Sirvis said the city council will decide how to fund the infrastructure for a new dog park. Previous estimates ran right around $60,000, to pay for fencing and other necessities. Sirvis said the committee hopes that local supporters will donate money to help pay for the new park.
“We’re hopeful that there would be local individuals and/or businesses willing to support a dog park in some way,” she said. “And I anticipate there will be a Friends of the Dog Park group formed of citizen volunteers.”
Also, the Dog Park Committee needs two more members. Right now, the group is comprised of Sirvis, vice-chair Betty Milizia, who is the representative from the Natural Resources Committee, Linda Chiasson, Larry Kupferman, and Mike Simoneau, who represents the Parks and Recreation Committee.
South Burlington residents interested in serving on the Dog Park Committee should contact the city manager’s office, 846-4107.