Prospects for Holiday Island dog park not good

Friday, June 25, 2010
Mary Szafranski sits with her Dalmation, Nellie. Szafranski said her other dog, a terrier, was poisoned while walking on a leash somewhere in the vicinity of her home, and she her husband had spent close to $3,000 trying to save its life. Now they walk both dogs with muzzles on for safety. Kathryn Lucariello / CCN

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- From the three commissioners present at Monday's Holiday Island board work session, it doesn't sound as though property owners in favor of a dog park will gain much ground.

Jack Murphy, representing a group of 45 property owners, 34 of whom are couples, presented the rationale and need for a dog park.

The group's "unanimous vote," Murphy said, is to push to have the ballfield at the Recreation Center serve a dual purpose: dog park and ballfield. He said it should be an amenity like others, such as the driving range and the pickleball and tennis courts.

He said it would be costly to develop a new piece of ground, such as one suggested by the district at Wild Turkey and Valley drives. The park would need to be fenced and have water, parking and trash provided.

The ballfield already has those things, he said. He said the "Friends of the Park" would purchase and install remaining fencing to completely enclose the ballfield and would repair any existing fence.

As for rules of use, he said the group had come up with "eight understandings."

"Not rules and regulations because those can't be enforced," Murphy said. "We decided to keep it simple and have members police themselves."

Those "understandings" specify that owners must be present at all times, dogs will be under control and up-to-date with vaccinations, all aggressive dogs must leave, owners will be responsible for cleanup and disposal or use of other facilities such as parking, owners must obey posted hours and closing dates, the park will be used by property owners only, and dog park users would enforce the "understandings," not HISID personnel.

He said the ballfield is being mowed every day now and would probably be cleaner that it currently is, as there is incomplete fencing around it, and unleashed dogs and wildlife have access to it.

He estimated it would cost $3,500 to complete the fencing.

Several members of the group spoke in favor of the park, some questioning whether the park is currently used as a ballfield more than 10 hours a year.

Murphy said it is not the intention of the group to do away with the ballfield, and when the field is signed up for play, members understand they can't bring their dogs there.

Ken Brown said he was superintendent of a school district that allowed school land to be used as a dog park.

"We found that dog owners enforced each other," he said. "Maintenance never had to clean up."

Sue Huibregtse said she won't take her dogs on Holiday Island's walking trail anymore because of too many snakes and "deer parts."

"We won't walk there anymore because it's too dangerous," she said.

As for liability, District Manager Kevin Crosson said the district would be covered under "tort immunity," which means it is not liable for injuries.

The three commissioners present expressed concerns. Commissioner Kay Janky said she is against the dog park being part of the Recreation Center as an amenity. She also expressed concerns about children using the same piece of ground.

"Families go down there and use the ballpark," she said. "I also can't see using a ballpark as a dog park."

"The people I've talked to have said, 'Not in my backyard,'" said Commissioner Peter Putnam of both proposed locations.

"You haven't mentioned the liquid waste and what that does," said Commissioner John Dolce. He added that the group proposing the park may be responsible, "but what about the others?"

He also added that the district may want to change its marketing focus from a retirement community to a recreation community.

"Youth baseball is being pushed in Eureka (Springs), and I could see a Holiday Island team."

The commissioners tabled the matter until the July work session, when the other two commissioners are expected to be present.

In other discussions, the board:

* Received a request from property owners to launch a marketing committee to help market Holiday Island. In a memo, Crosson asked the board to consider the kinds of activities needed to create a successful plan, including public input, decisions about how the community will be marketed, financial commitment to the plan and the board's role in plan development.

* Discussed Resolution No. 203, which outlines guidelines for restricting property owners contacting the district's attorney. The resolution includes a phrase that the district will no longer be liable for attorney fees "associated with unsolicited contacts." Property owners are to contact the district first, who will determine whether their question "is valid, has not been previously answered, or is not readily accessible via other research sources" before passing it on to the attorney.

* Received a draft copy of changes to the employee handbook.

The board will hold its business meeting on Monday, June 28, at 9 a.m. at the district office at 110 Woodsdale Drive.

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