City Council rejects dog park at Pioneer Park
Location, timing cited in 5-3 no vote
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Another project proposed at Rhinelander’s Pioneer Park has been voted down.
After hearing comments from supporters and opponents of placing a dog park where a dog walk presently exists on the south end of Pioneer Park, the City Council rejected the project at that location on a 5-3 vote with council members Alex Young, Steve Sauer, Tom Gleason, George Kirby and Dawn Rog voting against it and Sherrie Belliveau, Tom Kelly and Mark Pelletier voting in favor.
The council chambers had a full house while council members debated the proposal with supporters holding signs depicting the face of a dog along with the wording: “Vote yes! Give dogs a place to play.”
Tina Werres, who has been involved for around 10 years in the effort to build a dog park, appeared before the council to present the plans for creating the park, which would involve putting up 5-foot black chain link fencing with two areas that separate the large and small dogs.
Unlike the proposal council members rejected in December to place a second softball field adjacent to the existing field at Pioneer Park, Werres said having a dog park on the south end wouldn’t change Pioneer Park.
“The use of the park isn’t going to change other than putting up a fence so that the dogs are safe,” she said.
For 10 years, Werres said she has researched other possible sites to locate a dog park in the Rhinelander area.
“Every site that I have looked at, legitimately, and brought before the Parks Committee has had some difficulty that made it either too expensive or just not appropriate,” she said.
Werres said having just under 2 acres of land available for a dog park on the south end of Pioneer Park would work for the project.
The dog park has received the financial backing of Drs. Foster and Smith. Company president Spencer Insolia also spoke before the council in favor of the project as proposed at Pioneer Park.
“This is a proposal that we’re in a position to be able to provide all the remaining funding for, so it would be zero cost to the taxpayers,” Insolia said. “All of the other remaining sites have challenges with them – it would probably cost the city additional money. This is one (site) that is ready. This is one that we’re enthused to support.”
In addition to hearing three city residents at the meeting speak in opposition to having a dog park at Pioneer Park, council members who ended up voting against the proposal mentioned the constituent contacts they received were mostly against the project at that site.
The opposing comments expressed concerns about the dog park being in close proximity to city residents and negatively affecting Pioneer Park, which is now utilized for various other purposes.
“We’re not against the dog park,” said Kirby, who also voiced his preference for locating the project at Shepard Park. “We’re against the location.”
Young, who called the location for the dog park on the south end of Pioneer Park “pretty reasonable,” also noted most of the calls he received on the proposal had been against it. He said there is a need for a dog park in the city, but the perception of approving the project at Pioneer Park while a public input task force he is on currently looks into possible future uses for the city’s parks would make it look like the council is “short-cutting” the task force’s work.
“I think the location is alright, but the timing is pretty rough, given everything that is going on,” Young said. “If it was up to me, I’d say send it back to the (Parks Committee) for more discussion until we work on this parks master plan.”
Belliveau, who chairs the Parks Committee and made the motion to approve the project at Pioneer Park, said she didn’t want to “wait another 10-plus years before we make a decision on a dog park.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to Tina,” Belliveau said. “She’s worked diligently on this project.”
Following the council’s vote, Mayor Dick Johns said, “Tina, back to work.”