Support for local dog park grows

By SUSAN LYNN
Register Editor

Register/Susan Lynn
Anne Kazmierczak, right, makes a point about the benefits of an off-leash dog park at Monday night’s Thrive meeting. With her is a friend, Camille Austin, visiting from Montana.

Senior citizen Ray Shannon gave the best reason for the city to develop an off-leash dog park: “When my dogs want to run, they’re limited by how much I want, or can, run.”
Shannon was one of several citizens who voiced their support Monday night for a fenced park specifically designed for dogs to run free within its confines. The discussion on such a park was held at a Thrive Allen County monthly meeting.
Successful park designs sport a source of fresh water, trees, and perhaps structures such as big tires, makeshift tunnels, hanging ropes and even big metal trash cans that encourage the animals to be frisky.
The parks give the animals and their owners a venue to socialize. If off-leash, dogs are typically more friendly than tethered, said Don Burns.
Once in the park, the dogs ignore humans, said Anne Kazmierczak. “They are there to run around and play with other dogs, not interact with humans.”
Because a dog park is “neutral ground,” and is not a territory a dog feels it needs to defend, the animals tend to be more docile and potential scuffles between the dogs are minimized, said Kazmierczak.
Dogs parks are equally pleasant for people, said Peg Griffith of Humboldt. Griffith recalled a visit to a dog park in California, saying, “You meet a lot of nice people there and it was a nice place to relax with plenty of benches to sit on under the shade of trees.”
Jeri Ornelas-Jones cited a park in Frontenac where dogs are allowed to roam off-leash and seemed to particularly enjoy darting in and out of the tall trees while the people enjoyed its many walking paths.
Randy Weber said a dog park would serve a diverse population of the town and would especially appeal to youths. “Kids use these places a lot,” Weber said of parks he has seen in other cities. Hutchinson, Topeka and Lawrence also have dog parks.
David Toland, Thrive executive director, said he has received numerous phone calls and e-mails voicing support for a dog park. He estimated “easily 100 people” in Iola favor the idea.

IOLA’S FLOOD plains in the south part of town provide an excellent place to develop a dog park, supporters said. Judy Brigham, city administrator, agreed.
“There’s not a lot of ways we can use that green space,” she said because of limitations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “And what we’ve experienced, as with the skate park in Riverside Park, if you build it, they will come.”
Now is the time to approach city planners as they develop a master plan for the flood lands, Brigham said. She encouraged proponents to meet with Jeff Bauer, city code officer, to look at available sites.
Brigham said if city commissioners see a concerted group of people are willing to work on developing a dog park, “they will listen.”
Kazmierczak agreed to chair a committee to further develop an off-leash dog park. She can be reached at anne@iolaregister.com.