Rough Rough

“It took time, but we wanted to make sure the site selected would serve needs of all citizens in the city, and this site was perfect.”

The committee had already begun fundraising and had nearly enough money to begin. With some advice and support from city recreation and planning staff a plan was devised for clearing only a central portion of the land. “We wanted to keep as many trees as we could,” said Bryant, “not only for shade but to keep a buffer around the perimeter of the park.”

Clearing started on the park in late 2004. Hurricane-driven rain and other minor issues held up progress along the way, but the park is now nearly cleared and fencing is expected to begin soon. After three years, it looks like a dream will soon become reality in Peachtree City.

Barking up the Right Tree

Every community will face different issues when attempting to introduce a dog park as an amenity. But Peachtree City canine advocates learned a few important lessons worth sharing…

First, expect the NIMBY effect (Not In My Back Yard). Many people thought it was a fine idea, but didn’t want it near them for one reason or another. Careful site selection is a key to success.

Also, anticipate some outright opposition to the idea. Some people just can’t accept using public resources to benefit dogs. The counter argument is that it serves the tax paying people who own the dogs, not only as a place to allow their animals safely off leash, but also as a place to meet new people who have common interests.

It is best to organize the committee so that the funds expended are all private funds, and none public, if possible. The Peachtree City council did approve to donate $5,000 to the cause after much public debate, but the dog park committee offered to pay it back once adequate funds were raised, thus thwarting naysayers.

The land and administrative support is what the local government can provide; form the committee under a body such as the Recreation Commission to allow for government support. The committee should get its 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status as soon as possible to enhance fund raising efforts.

Rules should be established and codified regarding who will be responsible for what at the park, especially regarding clean up. Early in the Peachtree City process, there was an attempt to make maintenance crews responsible to pick up inside the fence on a routine basis. The Leisure Services Director dug in his heels and refused to allow his staff to be handed such a task. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of users to clean up after their animals, and the dog park association is responsible to ensure that happens.

Based on the large number of inquiries about when the park will open, staff and the dog park committee have no doubt it will be heavily used once it’s opened. Thanks to this successful public-private partnership, citizens –- and their dogs — will have a unique amenity available for use.

Randy Gaddo is Director of Leisure Services (Parks, Recreation and Library Services), Peachtree City, Ga. He can be reached at (770) 631-2542 or email dls@peachtree-city.org.

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