Rough Rough

The road leading to Peachtree City’s dog park has been long and winding, but if all goes well, man and his best friend will be enjoying wide-open spaces before school starts again in the fall.

Finding a place for the park in this planned community of 35,000 located 35 miles southwest of Atlanta proved to be the biggest obstacle, but many other lessons have been learned along the way.

Plan that Puppy

The effort to create a dog park began in early 2002, when a city council member brought it up at the annual council retreat, responding to suggestions from constituents. The Recreation Department staff was directed to form a citizen’s committee that included the council member, a representative of the county humane society and interested citizens.

The committee was formed under the direction of the city’s Recreation Commission, adopted by-laws, set up a meeting schedule and started their work. The Recreation staff drew up a list of several potential spots for the park, and arranged a guided tour for the committee. The team began to plan what the park would look like.

They decided it would be at least three acres, on city-owned land, with room to expand if needed. It would be fenced and split into two sections, one for large dogs, and one for small. Trees were preferred for shade, but open space was also desired. A water source was necessary, and amenities such as restrooms for people, drinking water for man and beast and other amenities were discussed. Rules were drafted up for the park’s operation.

One of the unique requirements was that the park had to be accessible to the 100 miles of paved asphalt multi-use paths that connect nearly the entire city. The path system would allow the maximum number of people to visit the park without driving a car, walking or using their golf carts instead… much more environmentally friendly options.

After weeks of reviewing location options, the committee chose Drake Field, which was a bucolic lakeside open space surrounded by trees. It would have been a great spot, but as staff further investigated the site it had to be rejected. The main reason was that the site was being purchased by the city using state green space funding, and the requirements for the grant did not allow such a facility.

It was back to the drawing board, and the committee started going down the list of potential sites to pick the next most likely candidate. So it was that a wooded site was settled upon in the northern part of the city called Kedron.

The Kedron site was challenging. It was half cleared and half in heavily wooded space on land adjacent to an existing field house, swimming pools and multi-purpose rink. The land was sloping and featured ravines and underbrush that would need to be dealt with. It almost looked like this would be the spot when Murphy’s Law struck again.

A local environmental advocate raised an objection to the selection, saying that the sloping site led to the city’s main drinking water source, Lake Peachtree, and that fecal contamination could be washed into it.

County and State EPD experts were consulted and even though the chance was extremely remote, it was determined that the claim was feasible. Mitigating actions would have been expensive and time consuming, so the committee chose not to continue with that site.

The third selection was a site in the southwestern portion of the city adjacent to a large baseball and soccer complex. It bordered a state highway on 22 wooded acres that had been destined for years on a draft master plan to be used for five additional soccer fields. That fact drew criticism from the soccer association.

The baseball association didn’t like the idea because of the potential for unmonitored dogs to be using the baseball fields as restrooms. It was not looking good for this site.

Then somebody suggested a site no one had yet considered, a recreation complex called McIntosh Trail. It was centrally located, intersected the cart path system from many directions, had support facilities available, was in a wooded area that could be partially cleared on flat or gently rolling land and didn’t appear to interfere with anybody else’s activities.

The recreation staff investigated and found more than enough room available. It was decided, and City Council approved this site mid-year, 2004.

“We were very happy with the final site selection,” said Fred Bryant, a retired army officer who had by then become president of the newly formed dog park association, which entered into a formal agreement with the city.

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