Landers column: A wish for a dog park

Landers column: A wish for a dog park

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I will occasionally get asked if I have any regrets from my three terms as mayor. I do, and no its not wearing a Bears jersey in the WhoZhaWa parade. It’s not calling out some business owners on their outdated storefronts. And no, it’s not putting a boat on a street we barely used. A big regret I have was not being able to get a dog park in our city.

I love dogs, have since the day I was born. I literally cut my first tooth on a Collie named Sandy’s ear. I served nine years with a German Shepherd patrolling the streets of the Dells, and served on the Board of Directors for the Columbia County Humane Society for several years. For all I have done with dogs personally and professionally, I let my four-legged constituents down during my three mayoral terms.

Dog parks are not an easy thing to start up and operate. While the premise sounds good, they come with plenty of challenges. First is securing the land needed for a dog park itself. Trying to find several acres in or near the city that is not destined for residential or business development is not easy. Then you also have those people who live near prospective sites that will oppose the presumed traffic, odor, and noise of a dog park. It’s just not as easy as some people may think.

Then you have the expenses of a dog park. Fencing, plumbing, parking, sanitation stations. Admittedly, these things can be easily offset with fundraising and even park pass fees. You will also need a hefty dose of volunteers to help with the park’s maintenance and improvements. It would not be fair or cost effective to place the burden on our already strapped city services.

Yet a dog park in the Dells makes sense. Everywhere you look, the Dells has animal lovers and dog lovers in particular. Dogs are being welcomed into more businesses. I have seen dogs in Maurer’s, Walmart, Home Depot and local gas stations. Almost every morning you can find dog walkers out in force walking their shepherds, labs, Shih Tzu’s, and mixed breeds. The Dells has several pet resorts that are doing very well for not only those that visit us, but also for when our residents travel and need a reliable safe place to house our fury babies. The hospitality of the Dells has grown to accommodate dogs in the private industry and let’s hope it grows too in our municipality. Of the exploratory ideas of a dog park I considered as mayor, the number one issue was always where should it go? The answer is clear.

A short drive north on Highway 13 sits over 40 acres of vacant land next to Woodside’s athletic fields. Woodside decided years ago that they have no interest in expanding their fields in the Dells, so the thought of saving it for their expansion is over. The school, once interested in the site for a new high school, has found a new home thanks to the Nelson family. It’s too far away from the interstate to attract a major hotel or business. So, what about using this land for public use, starting with a dog park. And not just any old dog park.

Imagine a dog park with long runs, obstacle courses, and even a pond for swimming and retriever training? A park with an area that can be reserved for private functions like dog training classes and club activities to help make the park self-sufficient. We have the talented people and resources to get this done, but like I said, this would not be your average dog park.

The most iconic thing about our park would be the dedication of the official police dog memorial for the State of Wisconsin and engrave the names of past K-9s who served our state. Except for the beautiful Fireman’s Memorial at Bowman Park, our community has no public memorial honoring those in service. Ironically, our state also lacks a memorial for those dogs who served the many communities across Wisconsin as police K-9s. Many of which have given their lives in the line of duty.

Yes, I may be partial to this idea as a former police K9 handler, and continued strong supporter of the men and women who work alongside those brave animals who keep us safe. The law enforcement community, the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Canine Handler’s Association, and all the dogs who valiantly served deserve a state memorial. What better place than right here in the Dells to give it to them? And what better spot than one our city already owns.

Opinions expressed by Brian do not necessarily reflect those of the Dells Events or associations Brian may have. Brian can be reached at brianlanders@charter.net

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