By DAVE McMILLION
10:16 PM EDT, September 24, 2012
Concerns about establishing a dog park in Hagerstown, including possible problems like dogs attacking children or dogs getting hit by balls from nearby baseball fields, were raised Monday night during a meeting at City Hall.
About 20 people attended the meeting.
Several people associated with American Little League attended a meeting about the proposed facility in Hager Park and said they were worried about mixing the dog park with the Little League games played there.
Lewis Berry, an American Little League coach and a league board member, talked about dogs possibly getting away from their owners at the dog park.
Amanda Burker, another American Little League board member, said players in the league are taught to concentrate on the game, but the dog park might be a distraction.
Burker said she could see children in the outfield turning around to watch dogs in the park instead of paying attention to the game.
“It’s not going to work,” Burker said.
Others, like Tony Bittner of Hagerstown, spoke in support of the dog park.
Bittner said cities like Chambersburg, Pa., and Frederick, Md., have established dog parks in areas where children play and there have not been problems.
“There are thousands of these in the U.S. It must work,” said City Engineer Rodney Tissue, who led the meeting.
“We are constantly being asked about this. This is not something we are coming up with,” Tissue said.
Tissue recently presented the Hagerstown City Council with the idea for a dog park in Hager Park, near the corner of East Memorial Boulevard and South Frederick Street.
Tissue said he is considering having the park divided into two areas, one for large dogs and the other for small dogs. Tissue said he thinks the park should have about a 5-foot fence to keep the animals contained.
Tissue said he has been considering rules for the park, such as there can be no more than two dogs per adult in the park and that no children or food can be allowed inside the fence.
There was discussion about who would be responsible in the case of a dog or dogs attacking another dog.
Katherine Cooker of the Humane Society of Washington County said she believes dog owners will get sued if there are attacks.
“You can guarantee that,” Cooker said.
Tissue also emphasized that dog owners would be responsible for their pet’s actions.
“To me, that would be no different than a dog getting loose in the city,” Tissue said.
City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said what city officials seemed to be hearing at the meeting is that people felt a dog park is a concept worth pursuing, but perhaps not at Hager Park.
Tissue said he would like to know if there were people at the meeting who would like to be on a task force to continue studying a dog park. About a dozen people indicated on a sign-up sheet that they would be willing to work on such a committee.
Tissue said he will meet with the group to see “if there is good chemistry” among the members to continue working on the idea.
Tissue referred to a book, “So You Want to Build a Dog Park,” written by Susyn Stecchi. Tissue said Stecchi has seen the good and the bad in dog parks and he related some of her tips, such as making sure a dog park has plenty of stations to properly dispose of dog waste.
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