Ruff Edges: City Park dog park location sparks debate | News, Sports, Jobs


Stakes with yellow flags marked the planned boundaries of fencing for a dog park under construction at Parkersburg City Park. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — A month ago, stakes were placed in a field at City Park in Parkersburg to mark the location and dimensions of a dog park off Quick Street, planned next to the park’s tennis courts.

Residents of the area and some tennis enthusiasts say it’s the first they heard of the project and don’t want it to be built there.

“We bought this house because of the location,” said Becky Holland, a resident of Dickel Avenue. “Who wants about 100 dogs in their backyard barking?”

Ron Tice, who runs the Monday night men’s tennis league, said he isn’t opposed to a dog park, but thinks it needs to be in a different spot. He said dogs barking and the smell from the waste will be disruptive to players.

“We just don’t need a dog park right next to tennis courts,” Tice said.

Jackson Simmons, of Boy Scout Troop 12 in Parkersburg, works on his Eagle Scout project June 15 at Parkersburg City Park, digging and clearing out a path the city will eventually pave to a new dog park next to the tennis courts. Also, with the help of Simmons’ family and friends, a trench will be dug for a waterline to serve the animals in the park. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said there’s no guarantee the dog park will be detrimental to the neighborhood or the tennis courts. Rules will be established, the situation monitored and problems addressed, he said.

“I think that responsible, accountable dog owners deserve a place for their dogs to play and run off the leash,” Joyce said.

A dog park has been on the wish list for some in the city for years, dating back to before Joyce took office at the start of 2017.

In 2015, then-Mayor Jimmy Colombo and Councilman Mike Reynolds proposed one at the same site. But Colombo changed his mind after getting negative feedback from residents and instead pitched property next to the skate park off First Avenue.

Council assigned $9,000 for the project in 2016, but that money was eventually carried over and used as part of more than $1 million to fund increased police and fire pension payments in 2017.

Jackson Simmons, center, spent time working on his Eagle Scout project June 15-16, preparing the ground at Parkersburg City Park, near the tennis courts, for an eventual dog park. Also pictured are, from left, Norm Cowart, Nate McPeak, Les Pritchard and Jim Simmons, Jackson’s father. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

A dog park came up now and then in discussions, but this version of the project was first mentioned at the July 27, 2021, Parkersburg City Council meeting.

During a public forum in which many speakers addressed a moratorium on new residential recovery facilities, Boy Scout Jackson Simmons told council members he was working on establishing a dog park at City Park for his Eagle Scout project. He said at the time it would be “near the tennis courts,” according to the meeting minutes.

Simmons’ father, Jim, who is the Eagle Scout project coordinator with Troop 12, said his son spokes with city officials, including Joyce and Reynolds, before a location was determined. Reynolds declined to comment for this story.

While Joyce said the Scout suggested the location, council approved the funding and he signed the resolution rather than vetoing it.

“As far as I’m concerned, we all chose the site,” the mayor said.

A stake with an orange flag marks the property line for City Park along Quick Street in Parkersburg. Stakes with yellow flags show where the fence for a dog park is planned. City Engineer Adam Stout said the yellow stakes are 20 to 30 feet from the orange stakes. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

At the Sept. 14, 2021, council meeting, council members voted 9-0 to approve a budget revision allocating $50,000 to the project. The landscaping will cost $4,957, dog watering fountains $6,578 and fencing $26,290, city Finance Director Eric Jiles said Thursday.

Jim Simmons said planning for the project included “trying to be careful of the neighbors,” with shrubbery and a fence to provide a barrier.

“I understand their concerns,” he said.

Stakes with orange flags in the field mark the property line of the park, while yellow stakes indicate where the fence will be. The distance between the fence and the property line tapers from approximately 30 feet to 20 feet, City Engineer Adam Stout said.

In addition, there is planned to be fabric along the side facing the tennis courts, Jim Simmons said.

Family and friends of Jackson Simmons of Troop 12 in Parkersburg help him work on his Eagle Scout project June 15 at the planned site of a dog park in Parkersburg City Park. Pictured are, clockwise from left, Bill Smith, Les Pritchard, Jackson Simmons, Nate McPeak and Jim Simmons. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Three Dickel Avenue residents spoke against the location of the dog park during the public forum at the June 14 council meeting. Councilman JR Carpenter said during the meeting they would have to talk to the mayor about the location.

“We have never actually said as council where it should go,” he said.

The same week the topic came up at council, Jackson Simmons was working with volunteers to dig a path for a sidewalk at the site. His father said the paving will be done by the city, along with installation of a water line and the fencing. His son plans to enlist volunteers to dig a ditch for the water line and do other work for the project.

“Many people we’ve spoken to have been very excited about the opportunities for this,” Jim Simmons said.

Joyce said he’s also received positive feedback about the project and never heard any complaints until the stakes were placed.

Tice pointed out a January newspaper article that mentioned the project but not a specific location in City Park.

“If we had known Jan. 1 that it was going to be put next to the tennis courts, the Men’s Tennis League would have been down there” at council, he said.

Megan Duncan, who plays in a local women’s tennis league and helps teach tennis for Wood County Recreation, said she thinks there are other places the dog park could go.

“I think it’s a great thing that he’s (Simmons) doing,” she said.

Parkersburg resident Rusty Morris said he often walks his dog at the park and hopes they put in a dog park.

“If they did have a dog park, I’d probably take my dog ​​over there through the week,” he said. “I know you see a lot of people with dogs here.”

Dickel Avenue resident Bruce Helmick said many neighbors are primarily concerned about the effect of a dog park on their property values.

Michelle Jones, who also lives on Dickel, said the city should have checked with the residents and found an alternate site.

“Everybody just would like the space to be there to have, like, a nice buffer zone,” she said.

Joyce said the city did not have to provide official notice because the property is part of the park and able to be used for recreational purposes.

Dickel Avenue resident Dott Butcher said her own dog will be barking constantly if the dog park is built.

“It’s just a bad idea,” she said.

Joyce said he and Public Works Director Everett Shears will set rules for the dog park that take residents’ concerns into account. That could include closing the park during tennis tournaments.

“If it becomes a problem, then we can certainly close this park,” Joyce said.

The biggest expense is the fence, which Joyce said could be used elsewhere in the city. The mayor said he doesn’t want to waste money, but he also is unwilling to pull the plug on a positive project.

Joyce also said council could take action prohibiting development of the property.

Prior to a special council meeting this week, Carpenter said he planned to recind his vote for the funding and was discussing it with other council members.

Discussion about the location of the dog park, but no specific action, is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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