Dog Park Could Be Coming To City

ST. MARYS — The paws are churning on a possible dog park in the city of St. Marys.

Members of the St. Marys Parks Advisory Board discussed the possibility of adding a dog park at Kiwanis Park, located off Beech Street. Robin Willoughby, the 4th Ward Councilor and a Kiwanian, noted the back portion of the park could make an ideal location for a dog park — a facility she has been vocal about for the past several years.

“There’s water out there and I think it would be a benefit for the community to have a dog park,” Willoughby said. “We have a lot of people very interested in it and the location is next to K.C. Geiger Park.”

The back half of the park has an old baseball field that is reportedly no longer in use. St. Marys Mayor Greg Freewalt said running a fence across the field could be an option.

“I don’t want to speak for all Kiwanians, but I feel they shouldn’t object to it,” Willoughby said. “There will be rules and regulations.”

The tract of land is approximately an acre. Freewalt said if the park gains traction, a large one could be built in the future.

“We have people from St. Marys who have to go to Celina to go to the dog park,” Willoughby said. “Really, it’s a plus for the community.”

No time table has been set for construction of the park. Willoughby said she planned to talk to Kiwanians to make sure all are on board with the project.

Board members also discussed Pat McGowan’s proposal to develop a master plan for park development. McGowan said he wanted to create a plan that would outline future developments in city parks.

Freewalt said there is currently a process in place for park improvements and developments. Freewalt said he didn’t want anything that tied the hands of officials without having flexibility.

“It’s going to have goals and it’s going to say what you are going to do,” McGowan said of his plan. “If you publish that in the newspaper, then the people have the opportunity to give their input and I think you will get less push back on major projects.”

Board member Chris Botkin said he believed there is enough public engagement involved in the development of the park because of the park board as well as city council. Botkin noted any major projects must pass through city council for approval.

“But, I don’t have anything against it, in theory, a master plan,” Botkin said, noting there is a map of proposed improvements for the park. “They do keep track of everything that’s been proposed and if there’s enough public interest in it, they will go forward with it.”

Botkin said he would like to see a more specific proposal for a master plan. Board members did not vote on the topic.

Safety-Service Director Tom Hitchcock updated board members on the progress of the frisbee golf course being installed at the park behind the snow hill. During an April meeting, a group of residents proposed a course, which was approved. Hitchcock said the plan is to have the course ready by the end of the weekend.

Hitchcock also noted the city is prepared to meet the field needs for the youth soccer program.

By the end of the week, Hitchcock said more than 4,000 people have played the miniature golf course at K.C. Geiger Park. Freewalt said when the course opened, he hoped for 5,000 people to play it by he end of the season.

“We are on course for certain,” Freewalt said. “And the great thing is that the people who are working it want more times out there. Before we had trouble.”

Hours for the course are posted outside the concession stand as well as on the city’s website and Facebook page.