HAGERSTOWN —Hagerstown officials are looking to citizens to help establish an off-leash dog park in the city, potentially the first park of its kind in Washington County.
After a public meeting last month drew significant interest from the community, city engineer Rodney Tissue on Tuesday suggested to the Hagerstown City Council that a citizen task force should be created to determine an appropriate location, operations and amenities of such a park.
“It’s an issue that is long overdue in the city,” he said. “I see Frederick has three (dog parks) and I know there’s dog parks all around us, so I think we can do one and we’ll do it really well.”
Tissue said the task force would likely be comprised of seven community members who plan to support and use the park, which would have to be self-policing.
The group would be responsible for evaluating other parks in the area, developing a list of concerns and how they could be addressed as well as evaluate possible sites in the city and recommend the best location for a dog park, he told the council.
Tissue said the goal would be to have the task force present its findings and propose a location to the mayor and city council this spring.
The city council was receptive to the idea, and city staff plan to provide a list of nominees for the group at the council’s Oct. 23 meeting for approval.
A long-time proponent of an off-leash park and a dog owner herself, Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood volunteered to serve as a city liaison to the group. She said a park would provide people, especially those who live in rental units, a much-needed place to take their dogs to get exercise and interact with other dogs.
“I think that’s a really important facet from a dog owner’s perspective of having a happy, well-behaved dog,” Haywood said.
Tissue said they would also invite other non-voting members to the task force, such as a representative of the Humane Society of Washington County and the county’s recreation department.
Katherine Cooker of the Humane Society said a lot of people have already indicated a desire to serve on the task force.
“They’re going to have a lot of really good opinions,” she said. “I think it’s a great step forward.”
The initial site proposed at Hager Park drew some opposition at the Sept. 24 meeting, mostly due to its small size and location. Tissue said all city properties would be considered as they work to select the most feasible location.
Acknowledging that there will always be positives and negatives to potential sites, Haywood said the key for the task force is to find a neighborhood that is receptive to the idea of having a dog park.
“It is a neighborhood-serving thing,” she said. “I think there will be more to come and we just have to find a receptive neighborhood for this.”