Dog park conversation heating up in DeWitt

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By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter

DEWITTDeWitt is in the process of looking into adding a dog park to the city and the township. The project is mostly citizen-run, but local officials are reviewing comments from the public and working on leasing agreements.

“It is a community-driven project, so there is a group of citizens that have been working with the township and the city,” said Rodney Taylor, DeWitt Charter Township manager.

The dog park would be located at the front end of the Southern Clinton County Municipal Utilities Authority (SCCMUA) building on Herbison Road. The land for the park is not being utilized right now. It is about a two-acre piece of land.

Location of the proposed dog park. Map created on Google Maps by Zachary Manning.

Location of the proposed dog park. Map created on Google Maps by Zachary Manning.

“The location is the front end of SCCMUA. It’s fenced on two sides and it’s right next to Padget Park,” said Brad Gurski, SCCMUA director of operations. “SCCMUA owns the property. SCCMUA leases the property to DeWitt city and DeWitt Township and they will sublease it.”

The location would be inexpensive, because it has existing fencing and the only thing left to do would be adding amenities and a third side of fencing.

“The SCCMUA location was pretty inexpensive, because it had existing fencing. We are proposing a third leg of fencing. I don’t know the costs of that. The arrangement is split between the city, the township, and a friends group. The group will be a non-profit,” said Emily Altimare, co-leader of the Dog Park for DeWitt, MI group.

The Dog Park for DeWitt, MI group is leading the efforts for the park. The group wants the park, because it will allow the community to come together and also allow dog owners to meet one another. The park will allow dogs to be off of a leash, because the park will be fenced all the way around.

“There will be a couple of nice features. Dogs will be able to run off leash freely and I think it’s good for pet owners, because it will be a community event,” said Altimare.

The project is not set and stone as of yet, but it is getting closer and closer. The group has had multiple meetings with the board of SCCMUA and the boards of the city and township. The group has more scheduled meetings in early April and will present their proposal to the boards.

“Our next meeting is actually with the City of DeWitt and the township of DeWitt. We will go in front of the two boards and say we have this proposal and SCCMUA has agreed to let us use their property. We have a large number of supporters, so I’m hopeful the boards will let it pass,” said Altimare.

The group has a lot of supporters, but some people have voiced some concerns. The biggest concern that people have is noise. At the March 22 DeWitt City Council meeting, one resident voiced her concerns. The main concerns were noise and proximity to homes.

Altimare tried to ensure people that the park would have rules and the rules would be enforced. If dogs were being too noisy, then the owners would have to get their dogs and leave.

“There’s going to be rules and hours just like any other park,” said Altimare.

The proposed SSCMUA location for the dog park. Bath-DeWitt Connection file photo.

The proposed SSCMUA location for the dog park. Bath-DeWitt Connection file photo.

Dog parks are good for cities and allow dogs and owners to get exercise. It also reduces conflicts in other parks, because dog owners will have a place to take their dogs instead of a normal park.

“The idea behind them is many people have dogs and need exercise. By creating discrete places for them to run off leash, it promotes health for dog owners and it prevents conflicts for users of other parks,” said Stacey Swearingen White, professor in the Department of Urban Planning at the University of Kansas.

Planning for this type of park takes a fair amount of planning, but most places have a five-year strategic plan for what they want to accomplish.

“Most places have some sort of five-year strategic plan where they think about what they want to do and expand,” said White.

The project has no timetable to be complete, because the city and township have to agree on the lease before anything happens. Taylor noted that the best case scenario would be mid-summer to late fall for opening.

“DeWitt city and township have to get together and agree on the lease,” said Gurski.

As of right now the city council is still reviewing the proposed dog park.

“The city council is still reviewing the proposed dog park. They are taking public comments and will be reviewing an agreement at their April 12 meeting,” said Daniel Coss, city administrator via email.

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