Plans form for dog park improvements

holmes beach dog park meeting
Members of the Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee take comments from the public concerning proposed improvements at the city’s dog park. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Planning is underway for improvements at the Holmes Beach Dog Park.

Members of the city’s parks and beautification committee met Jan. 10 with interested residents to discuss the areas of the park being looked at for improvement, including fencing, gates, potable water supply, landscaping, and screening. While a blueprint hasn’t been created for the improvements, committee members have identified the primary points of concern for dog park users.

During the meeting, committee members agreed that the size of the park should not be extended further east, toward residential homes, than it currently is at its widest point. One item being considered is squaring off the park, removing the center curve to make the edges of the park equal width to the center. Another option is to extend the park to the sides.

Committee member Zan Fuller said that while some options for expansion are under consideration, no decision has been reached to recommend to city commissioners.

“At this time we’re not getting into the details of what we want to do,” she said.

Resident Sheryl Smargisso said with her bedroom facing the dog park she’s concerned about noise if the park is expanded.

In addition to considering replacing the current chain link fencing with either vinyl coated or galvanized chain link, committee member Dennis Groh said a part of the revitalization plan will be to plant shrubbery around the front and sides of the park outside the fence. The back part of the fence, which attaches to the city baseball field, will not have shrubbery. With shrubbery, Groh said he hopes the look of the park will be improved as well as a noise buffer provided for nearby residents. He plans to use coco palms, a short palm tree that can grow up to 10 feet wide, to provide the barrier.

Other landscaping plans include planting three or more dog-friendly trees on each side of the park to provide shade and exploring ground cover options.

Both committee members and the public in attendance were able to agree that using grass isn’t effective due to the flooding and heavy traffic in the park. Committee member Joshua Linney suggested using a mulch called Woof Fibar. Linney said the mulch would be attractive in the park and is designed with furry friends in mind. It packs down the more it’s walked on, is safe for puppy paws, and resists bacteria growth, allowing it to be cleaned by the sprinklers that regularly water the park. Before committing to using the mulch as ground cover, committee members discussed the possibility of setting up a trial area of the park to see how the mulch performs in real-world conditions.

Linney said he would get a quote on the ground cover mulch, different fencing options and for installing a push button gate to access both the small and large dog parks to eliminate the need for public works employees to unlock multiple gates per day. New gates also will provide a simpler locking mechanism for users, some of whom said they struggle to open and close the current gates while holding on to their dogs’ leashes.

“We know the fence and the gates need to be redone,” Linney said. “It’s not a safe or sanitary environment for pets or people.”

Public Works Foreman Dave Benton said new signs are on the way to the dog park which warn users of prohibited activities and rules for the park. Placement of the signs at gates will allow city workers to open more access points to the park and reduce liability to the city. Signs are expected to be installed by the end of January.

Though planning is taking place, some dog park users are frustrated by a lack of action to implement plans. Resident Don Anthony said he’s been a part of the conversation between the city and residents to implement improvements in the park for more than three years but hasn’t seen any change take place.

“There is complete apathy toward dog park people,” he said. Anthony worries that though plans are in the works, the actual improvements may not manifest.

Groh asked the members of the public to “trust the process.”

Linney thanked attendees for their input, adding that committee members are committed to seeing the project through.

“We’re only trying to do the best possible job for you,” he said.

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