Boyne City Commission approves dog park 4-1

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Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

Proponents of a dog park at Boyne City’s North Boyne property are now looking for ways to fund their endeavor.

The Boyne City Commission gave the Boyne City Dog Park Committee permission to begin fund-raising efforts during its Tuesday April 8 regular meeting.

“The last time we presented we did have three concepts,” said Boyne City Dog Park Committee Co-Chair Michele Carter…. “Once we went through more due diligence and more process we realized that it was probably going to be a larger undertaking to close Ridge Street than what we really felt we could do … so, in looking at the designs and the layouts and the feedback and going through the process we are still looking to be supported and given approval utilizing both lots.”

According to Carter, the proposed dog park concept would encompass two of the North Boyne property lots—one on each side of Ridge Street. The lot farther away from residential homes would offer area for large dogs, and one lot would be used for smaller dogs and a parking area.

“We would also eventually look to raise money that we could afford to build a restroom facility there,” Carter said. “Future plans would also include a separate agility area … and then also there’d be some extra area that could just be park-like picnic setting where families could come. Food would not be permitted inside any of the fenced-in areas.”

She added, “We realize we put a lot into this design… It’s going to be a process to get us to where our ultimate wish list of all these items that we’ve had put in here.”

Carter said the concept has received overwhelming community support.

Phase one of the project is estimated to cost $30,000, and would require fencing, waste bag receptacles, garbage cans, signage and water fountains.

“Without even officially starting to fund-raise we have commitments for the signage to be donated in-kind and we also have all of our waste receptacles also donated in-kind,” Carter said… “We did also specify down where the small dog area is … creating and planting a little privacy area, a little green space … things that would help create some more greenery and a little more of a buffer to the neighborhood.”

Charlevoix County Commissioner and Boyne City resident Chris Christensen asked if, by creating a dog park, would dogs be restricted from entering other parts of the city.

Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said there might be stricter enforcement of current dog laws—such as the rules at Avalanche Park, but said he has not seen any suggestion of new dog laws.

“I’ve had a lot of discussions in the couple years that dog parks have been floating around as a topic … with other managers that have these located in their communities,” said Cain… “And, the consistent comment I get is that these are generally very good meeting places and places for people to congregate with their pets; that the number of problems that happen at these are minimal; that most of the people I have talked to said they are good additions to their community.”
He added, “I was a little bit skeptical when I first heard about it. I watched the one in Traverse City quite a bit … and a number of other communities and everyone I’ve talked to said they have been a welcome addition.”

Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann said he supports the concept of a dog park at the North Boyne area.

Several citizens spoke on the matter—some in favor and some wanting more information on the matter.

Carter said the dog park committee is expected to visit the North Boyne site with a consultant to further assess the property.

The Boyne City Commission then discussed the matter prior to voting.

Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne supported the recommendation and lauded the committee for its work.

Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer said he is impressed with the group’s work and feels the park will be an asset to the community.

“I’m excited and in favor and ready to put the fence up,” Neidhamer said.

Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said, “It’s about time.”

Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said a question he had asked during the last discussion of this matter concerned liability and how it would affect the city.

“I haven’t had that answered yet,” he said. “I understand when we’re trying to push a project through … we tend to talk about the great things—nobody wants to talk about the other side, and I fully understand that. But, as a commissioner, I have to look at all sides.”
Gaylord added, “I am a dog owner. We have a dog in our family. I have not felt that Boyne City has treated me any differently because we have a dog. We’re able to walk her anywhere we want on a leash—barring the restrictions with Veterans Park and certain festivals and things like that.”

Gaylord said he has researched the issue and has several concerns.

“Dog park owners or city managers or county managers they’re not going to want to talk about little Fluffy that got killed last week or the dog that ended up getting a disease or one that brought it in,” Gaylord said. “There’s also been no discussion here but who is going to monitor this? I see a lot of dog parks that I’ve looked at online and researched; they talk about having somebody posted up there to verify that there’s a rabies tag, that you have whatever required shots … and who’s going to control if there is a female dog in heat that’s going to create havoc? Those are just some of the reality side of things.”

He added, “Again, I’m coming at this as a dog owner …. but I have to look at the other side.”

Gaylord said, as much as he loves dogs, he cannot support this type of concept on city property.

“We do have a lot of sidewalks and areas for people to take their dogs,” Gaylord said. “There’s too many negatives, too many risks out there.”

Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said he also has some concerns about liability.

“We look at the example of our community playground. The liability issue came up several times and it’s an example that things can be worked through as far as liability and liability insurance,” Grunch said…. “The liability I’m looking at, too, is the fund-raising part…. The other question in regard to this will be is: are we going to work with the committee and set up an enterprise fund through the city where people can make donations to the city for the purpose of the dog park? Is this going to be a 501(c)(3) effort and manage your own funds?”

Boyne City Clerk Cindy Grice said the city could use one of its funds to accept donations and distribute moneys for the dog park, similar to how the playground was handled.

It was determined that the city would act as caretaker of the funds raised for the park.

Carter also addressed concerns over potential liability.

“One of our sub-committees … worked to put together a Boyne City Dog Park rules and these signs would be posted at the entrance of both gates—one for large and one for small,” she said. “This is just a suggestion—we realize the city would have the final say as to what would be said but basically and generally, it is ‘Use the park at your own risk.’ It states that dogs must be healthy, must be fully vaccinated, licensed, wearing identification tags, must be leashed any time they are outside the fenced areas.”

Carter said they are also looking at a double gate system to help keep loose dogs from running off.

Also, dog handlers must be at least 16 years old, no puppies would be allowed, neither would be dogs in heat or sick dogs.

Grunch said he is sure there is a model that can be looked to in order to help deal with any potential liability concerns.

“A municipality is in the business of liability,” said Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer, who directly referenced Gaylord’s concerns. “We have a skating rink. A kid could fall and hit their head at the skating rink. We have a toboggan Hill. Kids get whacked at the toboggan hill. We have baseball fields, Little League fields—kids can take a line drive. We have a unsupervised swimming beach. We have an airport. We have a marina.”

He added, “A municipality is in the business of providing services, and our insurance coverage is in the business of making us covered. I don’t have any problems with the liability issue.”

Gaylord agreed that everything the city does has potential liability but reaffirmed his concerns over the numerous issues he mentioned.

Gaylord said simply erecting signs and refuse bins will not ensure people will utilize them, and added that dog waste can transmit diseases from one dog to another.

A dog trainer in the audience said dogs can pick up diseases just walking out of their house and down sidewalks, and that the dog park would not necessarily pose a greater threat.

The commission then voted 4-1 on the proposal to implement and construct a dog park on the North Boyne lots and allow the committee to proceed with fund-raising and all other aspects of organization … with the amendment that all plans must first be approved by city staff. Gaylord was the lone “no” vote.