Gone to the dogs

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:28 AM

So far, they've raised more than $14,000 toward the $18,500 project through public and private donations. The Village of Spring Lake and Spring Lake Township both donated $1,000; the Heritage Festival committee kicked in $500; and the Spring Lake Rotary Club pledged proceeds from its raffle ticket sales, up to $10,000.

The dog park has been a priority of the village's Parks and Recreation Commission since it ranked No. 5 in desired community additions on a 2008 resident survey.

The 110-by-407-foot area will be enclosed by 4-foot-high fences and include benches, doggy drinking fountains and waste receptacles.

Alex and Danny recently collected more than 320 petition signatures from residents in favor of the dog park. By their count, 16 refrained from signing. About a dozen residents expressed support at the most recent Village Council meeting.

“Most of them say it's a great idea,” said Alex, 15, a Mona Shores High School freshman.

But if village resident David Hoffman had a tail, he wouldn't be wagging it. Hoffman said he applauds the Boy Scouts' efforts, but he's done a lot of research and is not in favor of a dog park at the Central Park location. He expressed his concerns at recent village meetings.

Hoffman, who owns a schnauzer, cited fence height and children's safety as his chief concerns. He fears large dogs could scale the fence and that nearby ball field activity could rile up the animals.

Hoffman said he would not bring his pet to the park.

“She's a pretty high-energy dog and she doesn't qualify in my mind as somebody who should be turned loose,” he said. “I'm not confident I would be able to control her well in that kind of environment. Dogs can get pretty rowdy. My greatest fear is that somebody is going to get hurt.”

The American Kennel Club recommends that dog parks be surrounded by a fence that's 4-6 feet high, according to the

Brower brothers' research. The original plan called for a 5- to 6-foot-high fence, but village officials asked that it be 4 feet to be more uniform with the adjacent cemetery fencing.

The north side of the dog park will include a double-gated entry system to keep dogs from escaping and to allow wheelchair access.

The park will be located on a Consumers Energy easement, with permission from utility company officials.

Alex Brower is in charge of design; while 13-year-old Danny, a Spring Lake Middle School seventh-grader, is in charge of benches and amenities. Alex said he came up with the dog park idea for an Eagle Scout project about two years ago when he visited a similar venue in Grand Rapids.

“We have a fair-sized yard and my dog (Buddy) can run, but he never gets the social aspect of communicating with other dogs,” Alex said. “I thought we could really use a dog park here in Spring Lake.”

Alex said Troop 14 will dig holes and erect the fence in two weekends. The community is invited to help.

But that's putting the cart before the dogs. Alex said he and Danny hope to knock on doors this weekend seeking more donations.

“I'm confident that it's going to get done,” Alex said. “I think it will benefit the community and become a gathering spot for dog owners.”

Michele Yasenak, a member of the Village Parks and Recreation Commission, said the Boy Scouts have done a phenomenal job with public presentations and site planning.

“I think it's going to be a nice enhancement to Central Park,” she said.

Village President Jim MacLachlan said he's heard a lot of positive feedback about the project.

“I think it will be a great addition to Central Park, and something the community can use and be proud of,” he said. “We're very excited about it and hope to have it onboard very soon.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the project may write a check to: Spring Lake Dog Park; and drop it off or mail it to Village Hall, 102 W. Exchange St., Spring Lake, MI 49456.

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