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Dog park slated for Ellis Park

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With a crowd of about 70 people gathered on Monday, March 15, to hear about the fate of the village’s first bark park, Village Council members approved 4–1 a resolution to support a dog park at Ellis Park. Council requested that the group pursuing the dog park should consult the Tree Committee, whose members have spent over 20 years cultivating a scenic park at the Ellis Park location.

During Monday’s Council meeting, Council President Judith Hempfling stated that while the Village had spent a lot of staff time on the dog park issue when there were matters of higher priority (such as the Village budget) to address, she wanted to support creative ideas from active citizens. Council members Lori Askeland, Rick Walkey, Karen Wintrow and John Booth voted to approve the resolution; Hempfling voted against the measure due to the Tree Committee’s opposition to the dog park there.

Yellow Springs High School students Marlee Layh and Lucas Donnell proposed the dog park as their senior project in early January. After researching and considering many other locations in the village, the students proposed a 150′ x 300′ area at Ellis Park, north of the parking lot with a fence of wire and wooden posts. After announcing the proposal, the Village received complaints from residents who did not want to disrupt the serenity of Ellis Park with a dog park, and Village staff began to research other potential locations, such as several spots at Gaunt Park, the Village property formerly occupied by Stutzman’s Landscaping, the southern end of the Glass Farm, the old wastewater treatment plant, and other possibilities, such as the Bryan Center property.

At Council’s last meeting in February, the Village had settled on the Gaunt Park location on the hill near the water towers. But Council then received dozens of letters, e-mails and responses from residents opposed to the Gaunt Park site. Talus Drive residents Judy Parker and Jane Scott gathered 76 signatures to a petition opposing the dog park at Gaunt Park due to safety, hygiene, overuse of Gaunt Park and the dog park’s proximity to residential neighborhoods.

On Monday, Council again considered briefly the alternative locations, with Village Manager Mark Cundiff’s recommendation that Ellis Park offered the greatest number of benefits, including availability of water, available parking, isolation from residential neighborhoods and relatively easy pedestrian and bicycle access.

Tree Committee founder Lloyd Kennedy spoke of his support for the dog park and even promised to plant trees for the dogs, but not at Ellis Park. Kennedy, 95, and the Tree Committee have planted 135 trees on the southwest end of the park, and 20 species of oaks in a grove on the north end to create an intentionally serene and picturesque park that is easier to access than the Glen or John Bryan State Park.

Hempfling supported the Stutzman location because putting the dog park there would not impinge on others’ needs. She agreed with Wintrow and Walkey that Gaunt Park is already heavily used and that parking is sometimes an issue in the summertime.

Hempfling announced at the beginning of the meeting that after consulting with Village Solicitor John Chambers, Council agreed that Wintrow, who is Donnell’s mother, could continue to participate in the dog park discussions because none of the participants stood to gain financially from the proposal, and Chambers saw no reason for her to have to abstain.

Other items of Council’s March 15 business will be in next week’s News.

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