Paxton Park District board takes big step toward dog park decision

PAXTON – The Paxton Park District Board took a big step toward its decision on the dog park committee’s proposal to build a dog park at Coady Park.

In its monthly meeting Tuesday, the park board voted unanimously on a plan to meet Sunday to discuss possible areas for potential dog park usage.

For the dog park committee, the progress sparked some optimism after more than a year of trying to build a dog park in Paxton.

“We’re optimistic,” dog park committee member John Russell said. “It’s been over a year since we’ve started trying to get a dog park going, so we’re happy to see a little progress.”

The park board will meet in the Civic Center at 8 a.m. Sunday to lay out an area on which it would be willing to build the dog park. The next step would be to present its land proposal to the dog park committee.

“We’re going to try and lay out some ground that we think we’d be willing to let them use,” park board member Steve Sample said. “If we can all come together and agree on that, then we’ll present that to the dog park committee and see if it works for them. It’s sounding like, within the next month or so, we should have a pretty good idea if the dog park’s going to happen or not. What we basically voted on tonight was to meet on Sunday to determine a space that we, as a group, would feel comfortable with them using. We’re going to get together and see if we can agree on a piece of land within our property that we feel like would work for them. If we can, then we’ll present that to them and see if it works for them.”      

One of the issues discussed at the meeting was the amount of land used for the dog park. Russell said at the meeting he would like the dog park to be no smaller than two acres.

“That would be the preference,” Russell said. “We’re not making a pen. We’re trying to make a park – a place that people want to come to, not just a cage to let your dog run loose.”

Sample said, however, the park board should not relent a certain amount of land until it knows how much space is available.

“I don’t think we need to say, ‘Yes, we can definitely give you this much space,’” Sample said. “I think we need to get out there and actually see the land, see what we’re looking at and see how much it is and then go from there because it’s really hard to just think in my head what two acres looks like.”

Although space and location may be an issue, Sample said neighbors’ complaints should not be another if the Urbana dog park is any indication. Last month, a member of the Urbana Park District showed up at the Paxton Park District’s monthly board meeting to discuss her experiences with the dog park in Urbana.

Among the most eye-opening of informational tidbits, Sample said, was the fact that the dog park in Urbana has yet to result in a complaint from its neighbors.

“She brought a lot of good information from her experience with the Urbana dog park,” Sample said. “It was very information and much appreciated by everybody involved that she was able to take the time to come down and talk to us about it. She said the dog park has integrated pretty well with the surrounding neighborhood and they have not had any complaints from any of the neighbors regarding any problems with the dog park. Obviously, that’s not to say that we would not have any complaints or have any issues, but I think it says something that they’ve had one as long as they have and haven’t had any issues.”

With a decision likely to be made within the next month, Russell and Janessa Janssen, another dog park committee member, said it will help the dog park committee raise funds for the dog park in a big way.

“A lot of people don’t want to donate yet until they know where it’s going to go, or if it’s going to go,” Janssen said.

“I’ve heard a few people that have said, ‘I’ll write a check when I know where it’s going,’” Russell added. “We need a specific location so that we can get quotes. We need quotes before we can really turn up the fundraising. We need a target dollar amount – how much money do we need before we can really start hammering.”

Sample said the decision will be coming really soon.

“I think, within the next month, we should know whether or not it’s going to happen,” Sample said. “There’s no guarantee that we’re going to be able to agree on a piece of land that’s where they want it or big enough for what they want. We’ll just have to see what happens from there.”

As far as other new park amenities, such as improved tennis courts, a shed and playground equipment, the board now has some more money to allocate after passing an ordinance for the new tax levy.

The levy, which totals $252, 952.57, includes a bond issue of $75,417.67. The 2012 property tax rate allocated to the park district is 41.1 cents per $100 of assessed value, up from 25.6 cents from last year, during which there was no bond issue.

The owner of a $100,000 home in Paxton would play $112.32 following a homestead exception in property taxes to the park district, including $41.90 for the bond issue.

“It’s nice to see our potential,” Sample said. “We’re really excited about what we hope we’re going to be able to accomplish with that money. We’re going to give back to the community. It’s the community’s money. We’re trying to be a park district for the community, and I think we’re going to do some exciting things that the community’s going to get some great use out of. That part of it is very exciting for sure.”

The park board also voted in favor of a motion to remove the hill on the north side of the park’s property.

“We’ll wait for a bid for that, and we’ll get that removed probably within the next month or so,” Sample said.

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