Due to a lack of funds, the Friends of the DeWitt Dog Park will no longer have a formal role in running the dog park, but the city and township will run it business as usual.
The group proposed the idea for the park, which is located off West Herbison Road, adjacent to Padgett Park. It recently ran out of funds and dissolved, said DeWitt City Administrator Dan Coss, who played a central role in the formation of the dog park on the city’s end.
The original agreement to run and fund the park was a joint-partnership between the city, township and Friends group.
“As of right now, we’re just going to operate and maintain the dog park status quo,” said Coss. “It’ll be open as if nothing has changed. I don’t anticipate any big changes.”
“The relationship between the three parties has changed,” said Emily Altimare, who played a lead part from the Friends’ side. “Previously we were defined as the primary user group, and because of that we carried insurance. We’ve now changed our relationship, we are now just an advisory committee.”
“Because they were the community the group that brought the idea to us, they were really the drivers behind it, and helped rally some community support, we still lean on them,” said Coss. “As we do things at the dog park, we still notify them and say ‘hey, can you put out on your Facebook page and let everybody know it’s closed,’ they’re still a group that we value their input for sure.”
Altimare said the Friends group will continue fundraise and pay the township back for the fence around the park, who helped pick up the tab so the park could open without delay.
The idea came a couple of years ago for the dog park, Altimare said, with some years of planning to find the right location. The park opened in May 2017 and is leased on land owned by the Southern Clinton County Municipal Utilities Authority.
According to Coss, maintenance and supply costs for the park are about $4,000 per year, split between the city and township.
So far, the park has been a hit, and it’s good news that it will run as usual for those who use it regularly.
“People are very happy to have it, because their dogs have a safe place to run off-leash,” said Altimare.
“I very much appreciate the people who had the foresight to work to get it into existence,” said Leon Puttler of Bath Township. He said he comes to the park three to four times per week.
“It’s a good space, they take good care of it, and the dogs come and enjoy it,” Puttler said.
Coss said the Friends group preferred the park be centrally located between the city and township.
“I like that it’s close, and it doesn’t get as muddy as the one in East Lansing,” said Elizabeth Chilcutt of DeWitt. She said she comes by the park two to three times per week.
“It’s real popular,” said Jason Julian, a DeWitt resident. “[I come here] 360 days a year; almost every day, doesn’t matter what the weather is.”
An unexpected gain from the park is how it’s brought the community together as people make friends while at the park.
“The spinoff benefit that we didn’t anticipate is that it’s really become a social gathering spot for the people,” said Coss. “Folks have met folks that maybe just live down the street, maybe they didn’t know they lived there, but this kind of has brought them together and they run into each other at the dog park now.”
“I actually met someone that told me about other dog events,” said Chilcutt. “Like I didn’t know you could take your dog to a [Lansing] Lugnuts game. You’ve made friends, you’ve figured out other things you can do with your dog.”
Despite most of the park being iced over on Feb. 16, many people could be seen interacting with each other as they brought their dogs to the park during the afternoon.
As for future developments on the park itself, Coss said some people have requested a water option for the dogs to drink out of in the summertime.
“They could really use a fountain in there, there’s no water pipe,” said Julian.
The DeWitt Dog Park is the only dog park in DeWitt.