Paxton Park Board to move forward with plans for new dog park

PAXTON — After attending the Paxton Park Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as a member of the Paxton dog park committee, Theresa Johnson said the Paxton Park District does a lot for the community.

Regardless, she said one group in the community has been neglected — dog owners.

“With everything the park district has really built up over the last few years, they have offered tons of things for the kids, tons of things for families. Now it’s time to branch out and bring that little bit more of the community in and bring them into the dog park so then our dogs are part of our community, too,” Johnson said. “To a lot of dog owners, they’re our kids.”

The “kids” are now another step away from being able to roam free at a designated location in Paxton.

All of the board members voted that Tuesday to move forward with dog park negotiations for a facility at Coady Park.

“Some people don’t have children,” Park Board President Eric Evans said. “Their dog’s their child. You know what? More power to them. Let’s let them have something that they can come out and utilize. That’s my opinion. I’m very supportive of this. I want it to go. I just feel that this is something that the park district needs to help out with and supply.”

Nothing is set in stone just yet, as numerous logistics need to be figured out prior to the construction of the dog park.

“You need to look at rules, regulations, fees, hours, etc. Just your basic stuff,” Evans said. “How big of an area. Where do you want it? That’s basically it. Then we can move forward to the next step, and the next step would be finding that location, getting it approved, finding the funds, and then your next step is erecting it and opening it.”

Evans said once all the nuances of the negotiations are finished, the dog park should be up and running by early summer, at the latest.

“We’re not too far off,” Evans said. “I feel that with all the hard work that we’re getting from the community members — the dog park people — I absolutely think it’s going to happen. I don’t see why it shouldn’t. I feel that the park district’s willing to support it, so I think it’ll happen.”

In the meantime, the dog park committee, in which all but one of the members (Johnson)  wore a light green shirt at the meeting that stated “Support our Local Bark Park,” plans to go door-to-door in the Paxton area with a survey.

“I think it’s only fair that we go around talking to the community because this whole meeting was about community,” Johnson said. “We want it to be community-based, so I think it’s only fair that we go ahead and go from door-to-door for the ones that are in the surrounding area and get input.”

Should all go as desired by both Evans and the group, the park will be located in a small portion of Coady Park with a smaller version of the dog park in Urbana.

“Anybody that wants to know more about it can drive to Urbana, go to the Urbana park, get out of your car and walk around it,” Jon Russell, who raises two dogs and no children along with his wife, Angie, said. “Then you’ll have an idea of what we’re wanting to do here.”

Evans said the dog park’s location, regardless of model, would be more ideal at Coady Park than the previously-proposed location near the Paxton airport.

“They really would like it here because this is more centralized,” Evans said. “My opinion of it being out at the airport is you have people off the interstate that can use it. You don’t know anything about those people. They’re not going to be paying a fee to utilize it. Taxpayers are going to be funding this. I think that it needs to be utilized by the people in the town, not people off the interstate.”

While taxpayers may be funding the dog park, the funds for the fence will be raised by the committee via fundraisers such as the Dog Walk/Run on Oct. 6 at Pells Park.

Evans said, however, that the park district is open to utilizing some of its own funds for the construction of the dog park.

“If we can help out in some sort, we are willing to help,” Evans said. “We have to do some looking into it and see what we can come up with, but we’re definitely not turning a blind cheek and saying, ‘Hey, it’s all on you.’ We’re going to try to help out as much as we can.”
Some members of the dog park committee say the dog park could return the favor financially.

Jenessa Janssen has friends on Sheldon, a town that is almost an hour drive away from Paxton, via Facebook pet group.

“They have two big dogs,” Janssen said. “They’re a hassle to walk, and they want to be able to let the dogs run loose. When we first started talking about this, and I put something on my group about, they said they’d be willing to drive once a week and come down here so their dogs have a chance to run around and not have to worry about them getting loose or anything else like that, but yet also give support to the community as far as shopping in local businesses. I know that other towns around here would do the same thing.”

Angie Russell, a Paxton native who drives to the dog park in Urbana for her two dogs, also said the Paxton’s economy could be boosted by a new dog park.

“We drive to Urbana once or twice a week,” Russell said. “We buy gas in Urbana. We maybe get lunch in  Urbana. We stop at Farm N’ Fleet in Urbana, so I think it’d bring people here.”

In addition, dogs will become less of a noise problem, at least according to dog park committee member Bob Jones.

“People put them on fences on a chain, and they just sit there and bark,” Jones said. “The reason they sit there and bark is because they have no exercise. People need to understand that the dog park is a place to run and get worn out so they sleep at night.”

As well as open running space, the dog park will have some amenities.

“You’d have a spot that you can give them water,” Evans said. “You’d have a baggie area where you can pick up their messes and dump it in the bags. You’d have a couple of them containers set up through the dog park. Other than that, there isn’t much out there at this point. It’d just be your basic dog park where you can let a dog loose and run and play and have fun. I think it’ll be very neat.”

Of course, there is a spot in Coady Park where humans will not be allowed to have as much fun.

Due to some insurance-mandated instructions, sledding and horsing around on a 20-foot hill in the park are no longer permitted.

“It is not to be open for sledding like it has been in the past,” Evans said. “They don’t want to have anybody utilizing it because of the fear of injury, lawsuit or death. They say it’s not safe for that, so we have to post it that it’s closed. You can’t sled. We have to put a fence up. We have to put up a barrier in case somebody tries to go up there and we have to post a sign up there that you are at your own risk.”

The warnings should not affect the dogs’ good time, however, according to Evans.

“They’re saying it should be none for the dogs,” Evans said. “It’s more meant for people sledding and stuff like that, utilizing it in the wintertime and playing around  on it in the summer. That’s basically for human injuries and stuff like that. That’s the only concern that we have. But the dogs, they’re saying, there should be no concern for that.”

Other Park District news

The construction of a nursery school at the Paxton Park District is making some progress.

According to Evans, classes should begin early October.

“Everything’s moving forward on that, so it’s looking good,” Evans said. “They had to set back a little bit, but, hopefully by Oct. 1 they’ll be in there hosting their classes.”

If a proposal brought up Tuesday by board treasurer Steve Sample goes into play, the nursery school may be accompanied by a new playground.

“With the nursery school being here now, they can use that,” Evans said. “It used to be behind the pool. You had to walk back there to it. You can have family functions out here now. It’d be more apt to be accessible by the public.”

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