Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter Cove residents speak out on long range park plan

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By LILY REX

Porter residents voiced their opinions on the inclusion of a dog park in the long-range plan for Porter parks at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night.

Earlier this year, Parks Director Brian Bugajski authored a long-range improvement plan for Porter parks. The plan includes proposed improvements, descriptions, estimated costs, and potential sources of funding for 52 projects at six parks that would have a total known cost of $420,000. He emphasized that the plan is only a framework for the future--not a commitment to any projects--and the funding sources suggested are only ideas. At the March 27 Town Council meeting, he said that inclusion in the plan doesn’t guarantee that every project will be completed or be funded from the suggested sources.

In April, Bugajski opened a 30-day public comment period for the plan that garnered 10 responses, seven of which referred to the possible addition of a dog park to Kid’s Cove Park in the Porter Cove subdivision.

First up last night was Dawn Bugarin, a resident of Porter Cove, who appeared to express her opposition for the dog park. Bugarin revealed that she had zeroed in on a comment by Council member Greg Stinson about how seven comments may not be enough opposition to remove the dog park from the long-range plan. She reported that she and her husband George went door-to-door in Porter Cove and found 57 residents were opposed to the dog park and 16 were in favor.

Council President Erik Wagner responded, “I appreciate the effort to go knock on doors. That’s a lot of work, but I’ve personally talked to a lot of people that would love a dog park.” He added that Kid’s Cove was chosen as the best possible location because of its size and proximity to a trail.

George Bugarin expressed concern about kids being bitten at the park and public health, citing an example of a dog park in Denver shutting down recently due to concerns about E. coli. “We don’t want a dog park in our subdivision. I don’t think you’d want one next to your house, but you want us to have it next to our houses.”

“This isn’t about not liking dogs. This is about kids and dogs and which is more important. We feel that kids are more important,” he added.

Wager pointed out that the plan is not suggesting a dog park be put in at Kid’s Cove over improvements to the playground. “There’s nothing that says the dog park is gonna come first or that money is being taken away from equipment for a dog park.”

Kathy Cochran, for her part, said she and her dog frequent dog parks in other towns, and she supports having one in Porter. Cochran said, “The abstract idea of a dog park is one thing and the idea of how a dog park actually works in a community is another thing.”

Cochran noted that in her experience, dog parks are enclosed and have strict rules, including breed restrictions and not allowing young children to come into the enclosure. She also said the dog owners tend to police each other in picking up after their dogs and share dog bags. “It may well be something that attracts people to this area because Chesterton doesn’t have one yet,” she added.

Ryan Grocman said that there were too many unanswered questions for him. He said he’d like to know where money for the dog park would come from when the Town Council has not taken significant steps to replace the playground equipment at Kid’s Cove. He also asked who would enforce rules and questioned dog park policy.

“It’s called a dog park. So can you take a cat there? What if I want to bring my animals into the dog park? That’s discriminating. We got a guy that’s got a goat in our neighborhood. Why can’t he take it over there?”

Grocman added that he has read that property values can decrease when a dog park is nearby, and “When I moved to this subdivision, I didn’t look for a dog park. I looked for a park for my children.”

Terri Steinhubel and Corinne Peffers also voiced opposition to the dog park.

The Council members deliberated on the matter later on. Bugajski gave them two versions of the plan, one including the dog park and one leaving out plans for a dog park.

The Council briefly discussed polling all Town of Porter residents, but Wagner noted that an online poll would probably allow people to vote more than once. Police Chief Jamie Spanier suggested the poll could be put on the bottom of residents’ sewer bills, but Wagner noted that those bills already went out, and another won’t be due for a couple months.

Council member Brian Finley said he understood why Porter Cove residents oppose a plan for a dog park, and said he probably wouldn’t want one next to his house either. Member Ross LeBleu chimed in, “I’m in favor of a dog park. The Town needs a dog park.”

Member Bill Lopez, for his part, said there is more that needs to be considered, such as liability if someone is bitten at the dog park and how much it would cost to maintain.

Bugajski spoke up noting again that the plan has no timeframe, and his inclusion of plans for a dog park only signals that the Town thinks Kid’s Cove would be the best location for a dog park. He added, “If something down the road changes and we can put it somewhere else, we can always revisit that.”

Stinson, saying he’d hate to see the plan leave out all plans for a dog park, offered the tie breaker. He suggested the Council approve the plan, contingent on Bugajski removing the language that the dog park would be at Kid’s Cove. “Then at least it’s in the plan, and it’s not just falling by the wayside.”

The Council voted unanimously to approve the long-range plan with that change. The new plan will include plans for a dog park, but will say the ideal location of such a park is yet to be determined.

 

Posted 5/23/2018

 
 
 
 

 

 

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