The city council unanimously approved the establishment of a new dog park at Wheeler Homestead at a regular meeting Monday night.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the new park following an in-depth presentation by South Burlington Dog Park Committee Chair Barb Sirvis. The committee has worked on the issue since last fall, trying to find the right site for the new park. Public input was gathered through an online survey and two public information meetings over the course of the early spring and summer, which culminated in the proposal for the dog park at Wheeler Homestead. 

Wheeler Homestead and Nature Park are owned by the city and located along Dorset Street just south of Cairns Arena. The dog park would take up at least 1.5 acres. Water lines would be installed to provide drinking water for dogs, as well as split rail fencing with wire fencing inside of it and boulders to denote the park using the natural contours of the area. 

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 $25,000 in the city budget to help establish the new dog park and pay for items like fencing and water lines. 

The project will be phased in, with an estimated cost of $38,500 for Phase 1 at Wheeler Homestead for fencing and water lines. Phase II would include $11,500 of improvements to the Farrell Street dog park, and another $5,000 for Wheeler, for a total of $55,000.

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

“The Friends of the Dog Park group will be the eyes and ears supporting and sort of feeding information to whoever needs it,” Sirvis said, “as well as increasing public awareness, doing fundraising, and providing program suggestions and support to the Recreation and Parks Department.”

Sirvis also mentioned that the Wheeler Homestead dog park would be open to residents outside of South Burlington, as least for now, and would be open dawn to dusk

At the end of the presentation, Sirvis listed the names of the Dog Park Committee members: Linda Chiasson, Larry Kupferman, Betty Milizia, Mike Simoneau, Maggie Leugers and Sirvis, along with community members Molly Bezio, Kate Lukas and Murial More.

“It has been an incredible group that has done an extraordinary amount of work,” Sirvis told the council.

Council chair Helen Riehle agreed, giving kudos to Sirvis as chair.

“Well, I want to thank you for your leadership and your work,” Riehle said. “You listen, reflect, and took care of some of the volatile issues that really needed to be addressed in a constructive way, so you really were fabulous, and thank you very, very much.” 

Those in attendance then applauded Sirvis.

Councilor Dave Kaufman then made the motion to approve the dog park proposal, as well as the dog park committee’s recommendations that the council: 

• direct the Dog Park Committee to work with the Department of Public Works to implement the design and construction of the news dog park at Wheeler Homestead.

• approve the two-phase budget for dog parks at Wheeler Homestead and the existing dog park on Farrell Street.

• approve a $4 increase in dog license fees to help with funding.

• approve the committee’s organizational structure.

• approve the creation of a Friends of the Dog Park group.

• reaffirm the Dog Park Committee as a standing committee with the city.

• appoint three new members to the Dog Park Committee.

Kaufman thanked Sirvis and the committee within the context of the motion to approve Wheeler Homestead dog park.

“I make the motion to approve and support this proposal and we express our sincere appreciation for the diligence and hard work you did to come up with a great plan,” Kaufman said. “Thanks.”

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