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Wednesday, 31 August 2011 20:35

Dog owners lobby for pooch park

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Hampered by a leash law that keeps their canine friends at heel, an ad hoc group of Sylva residents hope to find a place — a puppy park — where dogs can just be dogs, enjoying various doggie things.

In an informal, grassroots sort of get-together that took place one evening last week at City Lights Café, seven Sylva dog owners envisioned a fenced dog park where Rover could run unfettered, chasing a Frisbee or tennis ball, playing nicely with all the other dogs. No cats, of course, would be allowed. Rowdy dogs would be banned.

This field of dreams looks a lot like the dog parks found in Haywood County. Waynesville leaders set aside two fenced areas along the Richland Creek Greenway for dogs and their owners. The parks come complete with baggie dispensers so people can more easily cleanup after their dogs.

“We need an off-leash dog area,” said Stacy Knotts, a Sylva dog owner and town commissioner who emphasized that this, however, was not a town project.

And for good reason: A couple of years ago, Sylva’s town council erupted in fierce debate over whether dogs should be allowed in the then new Bridge Park, a small green space adjacent to downtown with a covered pavilion for holding concerts and community events. The fur flew as council members accused each other of voting to suit various canine agendas.

With that bitter history serving as a backdrop, Knotts said that the group’s hope is to convince county commissioners to let dog owners use one of Jackson County’s parks, with private money, perhaps, paying for needed fencing. Mark Watson Park, located near town, emerged as a clear favorite of the group, but any county park where they’d find an official welcome would be fine, they agreed.

Keith DeLancey, a local therapist with three dogs of his own, agreed to serve as point person on the project. The united effort to develop a dog park grew out of an email exchange between DeLancey and Knotts. DeLancey and his dogs have visited and played in Waynesville’s dog parks, and he proclaimed them “very nice” indeed.

There was discussion about the possibility of having an agility area at this fantasy future Sylva dog-park. Pat Thomas suggested keeping costs down by using bamboo, an idea gleaned from the Internet. She has some on her property that might serve such a purpose.

DeLancey said rough estimates show building 6-foot tall fencing for a half-acre area would cost just more than $600.

The first step will be to discuss the possibilities with the county’s recreation department, Knotts said, and then, later, ask for county commissioners’ support.

“We have a lot to do before we get to that point,” Knotts said.  

A Facebook site for the group, to garner more support from local dog owners, will be built. The group also plans to start a petition drive — a “would you use a dog park” type questionnaire — too.

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