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No dog park at Ellis Park

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Ellis Park, the home of what many villagers consider a bird sanctuary and nature preserve, will not be the site of a dog park after all, following the April 19 Village Council meeting. At the meeting Council members voted to rescind the March vote that okayed Ellis as the dog park location, as had been proposed by two Yellow Springs High School seniors.

The April 19 vote was 4–0–1, with Judith Hempfling, Lori Askeland, John Booth and Rick Walkey voting to rescind the previous vote, and Karen Wintrow abstaining. Wintrow is the mother of one of the two YSHS seniors who proposed the park.

For now, the dog park is on hold. Council members agreed with a recommendation by Village Manager Mark Cundiff that finding the best site for a dog park should take place in a holistic analysis of Village parks, which will most likely take place next year. Council members stated their support for having a dog park, as long as an appropriate location is found.

“I still think the idea of the park is a valuable one to the community,” said Booth.

The location of the dog park site has been controversial since the students, Lucas Donnell and Marlee Layh, proposed it to Council in January as their YSHS senior project. They identified Ellis Park as the site since that park appeared to be underused, and also because Ellis does not have residences nearby.

However, users of Ellis Park quickly countered that the site is a refuge for wildlife, and that the presence of dogs and their owners would interfere with the quiet, contemplative nature of park use. Next, Council and Cundiff considered an unused section of Gaunt Park near the water tower as the park location, but more than 70 Talus Drive neighbors signed a petition opposing that plan due to noise and safety concerns. At Council’s March 15 meeting, Council members approved returning the dog park to the Ellis Park site in a 4–1 vote, with Hempfling voting against the site.

Following that vote, Ellis Park users rallied, and 126 villagers signed a petition opposing that space as a dog park location. However, when presented with the petition at its last meeeting, the majority of Council said they wanted to move ahead with the Ellis Park location, since so much Village staff time and effort had already been used on the issue. At that meeting, Hempfling and Booth stated that they would favor a less controversial site than Ellis.

They were joined on Monday night by Askeland and Walkey, who both stated that they were changing their minds due to the controversial nature of the Ellis Park site. Walkey stated that as well as Village land, private land might be considered as a potential site, including the Vernay property that is now empty due to groundwater contamination.

Villager Chris Roberts stated that the land owned by herself and her husband, Doug Roberts, at their dog and pet wash on U.S. 68 south of town is available for a dog park site.

Wintrow stated her regret that her son and Layh had what she described as a negative experience in proposing the dog park.

“Their emotions and interest in the project have been beaten out of them. They’ve lost the heart for it,” she said, stating that she had hoped instead that her son, leaving for college next year, would leave with more positive feelings for the village.

The dog park concept will go “back to the drawing board,” at this point, Hempfling said. According to Cundiff, it will be taken up next year.

Other April 19 Council business will be in next week’s News.

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