Bark park sparks talks

With more than a dozen passionate supporters clamoring Wednesday for a dog park in the city, city leaders agreed to visit area dog parks and take inventory of possible ground for a dog park in the city of Wapakoneta.

Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier, who chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee, intends to develop a list of available ground in the city’s current park system among Veterans Memorial Park, Heritage Park, Harmon Park, Belcher Park and the new park as well as other possible city ground.

“Our main thing is we are going to have to determine where there is space in the city for such a thing and then we will proceed from there,” Neumeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News after the meeting. “It is nice to say we will get everything volunteered from these people but you still have to get it on paper and people committed to it.”

He also plans to tour the dog parks in Celina and Lima with members of his committee to help determine what best constitutes a dog park. Mayor Rodney Metz and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains also will be invited for the visits.

“By visiting these other parks, I personally get a truer perspective of what a dog park consists of because I have heard everything from a fenced in area to agility equipment, water fountains and other amenities,” Neumeier said. “To be honest, I never heard about a dog park until I received the first phone call more than a month ago.”

During the meeting, Neumeier conceded the city does not have the money to construct a dog park at present or for the next several years with the Parks and Recreation Fund strained with the purchase of ground at the former site of Centennial Elementary School and expanding Harmon Park from the gazebo to east of the tennis courts.

The city paid $65,000 toward both parks, which carried a price tag of $125,000. The Wapakoneta Breakfast Optimist pledged $20,000 and the Wapak Soccer Club pledged $40,000 toward the purchase of ground at the former site of Centennial Elementary School.

The Optimists want to install playground equipment and eventually build a shelter house. The Wapak Soccer Club is looking for additional ground for soccer fields to relieve stress on fields at Veterans Memorial Park.

During the meeting, Wapa-koneta High School sophomore Travis Rohrbach, who is a Boy Scout, volunteered his energy to help raise funds and to install the fence for the dog park as part of his quest for his Eagle Scout.

He explained as part of earning his Eagle Scout that it would be his responsibility to solicit funds for his project and for the construction of his project. He said he and other members of his Troop would work in installing the fence and building other equipment for a dog park.

Rohrbach said he would enlist the help of David DiGiovanni, who for his Eagle Scout project built a dog park for Buckland.

“He said he would help me with plans how to build it, how to keep it maintained, what it would take to build the park and what kinds of materials and supplies I would need,” said Rohrbach, who then asked if he prepared plans to whom would he present those plans to and how should he proceed.

Neu-meier said his committee would review the plans.

After the meeting, Metz said he would like to see all the committee members have all the same information regarding the dog park before moving forward. Wapakoneta 4th Ward Councilor Chad Doll was in attendance, but 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee was absent.

“They need to go see some of the dog parks that exist in the area so they have a better understanding how to proceed from here,” Metz said. “I was pleasantly pleased with the number who came to this meeting because it shows there is more than just a little bit of interest in this idea — actually there is quite a large amount of interest in the existence of a dog park.”

One woman told committee members “there are lots and lots of people interested in a park and would voice their opinions in support of a dog park and want it but don’t know what to do.”

Neumeier encouraged people to attend future committee meetings.

Another woman told city leaders that a “dog park is multi-generational, it is not just for the old people, it is not just for the young, it is not just for teens — it is for everybody regardless of age, it is truly multi-generational” unlike soccer and baseball.

Another person said they understood the Breakfast Optimists pledged $20,000 and the Wapak Soccer Club pledged $40,000 toward the purchase of park ground, but the city is still paying $30,000 for the ground and residents should have input on how the ground is used.

The mayor also said he believes city leaders should be able find in the future some city-owned ground to designate as a dog park.

Metz said he also favors the creation of a commission comprised of city residents and councilors to continue to work on the issue.

To discuss the matter further, Neumeier set the next Parks and Recreation Committee meeting for 7 p.m. June 27 to discuss a possible dog park and to review findings from their research and field trips to area dog parks.