Dog park users concerned with city field improvements

Holmes Beach city field proposal
The latest rendering of what the city field complex could look like shows the large and small dog parks moved into what is now parking spaces along Flotilla Drive, though Commissioner Rick Hurst suggested relocating the parks to face Marina Drive. - File photo

HOLMES BEACH – New plans are emerging from city engineer Lynn Burnett for a master plan to remodel the existing city field complex and add new amenities, including bocce ball courts and horseshoe pits. She’s also brought to commissioners’ attention an idea to install a jogging track around the entire complex.

However, dog park users are concerned that these plans mean planned updates to the city’s small and large dog parks may be years down the road.

The idea of a master plan for city field was first introduced by commissioners after a presentation from dog park users and members of the city’s Parks and Beautification Committee on recommended dog park improvements in the spring. User Renee Ferguson, who helped formulate the plans for the dog park, said in an email to The Sun that the idea of a master plan being broached after months of meetings and planning for the dog park surprised her. Once commissioners decided to pursue a master plan for the park complex, Ferguson said she fears necessary improvements may never come to the dog park.

Improvements recommended by the dog park users and committee members include new drainage and ground cover, additional benches, trees to provide shade, new fencing, potable water stations for dogs and their human companions, and additional entrances and exits to both dog parks for canine and companion safety. In its current state, the dog parks lack shade, the grass has been worn down or away in some areas and parts of the park flood during rainstorms, creating a muddy mess for dog owners.

Dog park user Don Anthony said in an email to The Sun that it feels like the voices of the dog owners have not been heard and that all of the planning done for improvements to the park was wasted time, with months passing and no improvements to the park being made.

Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson said the plans haven’t been abandoned, but they are on hold while a master plan is created by Burnett, to be approved by commissioners. Right now, the only enhancements planned to the current park include the installation of shade structures with moveable anchors that can be relocated when or if the dog park is moved. The shade structures are expected to be in place within the next two weeks.

In an email to The Sun, Commissioner Judy Titsworth, running for mayor in the November election, said she doesn’t feel that the dog park has received the attention it deserves from city leaders. She committed to making improvements to the dog park a top priority for city leaders to ensure that the planning already done for enhancements isn’t lost in the shuffle of the city field master plan.

Commissioners have not yet voted to accept either of the city field park plans proposed by Burnett.

Commissioner Rick Hurst addressed one concern of dog park users saying the intention in including the dog park in the city field master plan is to better utilize the available space. He said that there are no plans to decrease the size of the small or large dog parks.

As commissioners consider the master plan renovations, Ferguson said she’d like for commissioners to take special care to include the parking needs of the dog park and skate park, including the need to have nearby parking available. She also said rather than spend money to maintain a ball field that she sees little use being made of, she’d like to see the baseball diamond turned into more multi-use field space. Another consideration for commissioners, Ferguson said, is to make sure that wherever amenities including the dog park and skate park are located within the complex, it should be determined if the location of the amenities will cause noise problems for nearby residents.

Anthony said rather than move the dog parks, he’d just like to see improvements made to the current location, particularly resurfacing of the park and added drainage to combat flooding.

With the election approaching in November with the mayor’s seat, along with two commission seats up for grabs, both Ferguson and Anthony said the timing of any decisions could create an issue in implementation. For her part, Ferguson said she expects the process of planning improvements to begin again after the election, hopefully with implementation at the dog park to be a priority for city leaders.