UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct the date of the public hearing on the dog park. It will be on July 9, not July 16. Updated 11:45 a.m., July 3 

Members of the Pierre Parks and Recreation “Dog Park Sub-Committee” met with the Pierre City Commission on Tuesday, July 2, to try and secure a location for a future Pierre Dog Park.

“[Dog parks] are common around the state, and certainly in major municipalities,” Dr. Craig Howard, a veterinarian and member of the sub-committee, said. “We’d like to join that list.”

The location they selected is an alfalfa field on East Sully Avenue, a few blocks east of Downs Marina. Howard said they selected this location due its size, pre-existing ownership by the city, and proximity to a potable water source, among other criteria.

“We entertained a few other sites, but this site rose to the top to the point that we don’t have an alternate site; we don’t have a back-up site right now,” Howard said.

This is not the first time Pierre residents have tried to get a dog park built in the city.

Farnsworth said that another group had spoken to the Commission board about the topic three years ago. Those efforts fell through before bearing results due to some internal sub-committee issues.

“I think the reason it didn’t move on further is, two of the three key citizens on the committee moved out of town, and the one remaining couldn’t take it on by herself,” Tom Farnsworth said. Farnsworth is the Director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department, and is also pushing for the dog park.

Alternatively, Howard said, the current sub-committee is energized and confident about getting a dog park.

“This group is here, they’re local, there’s more than one, and… the private fundraising onus is huge to make this development,” Farsnworth said.

Howard told the Commissioners on Tuesday that the dog park sub-committee had no finalized plans drawn up for the park or any park amenities yet. Those could be figured out after a location was selected.

“Right now, we’re focused on the location,” he said.

Despite this, Howard did present a very tentative plan for the park to the Commission board. Based on the preliminary vision, the dog park would include a parking lot, a fenced entrance space where dogs could be unleashed without fear of them running off down the street, and two internal divisions: One for large dogs,and one for “Little Pooches.” All these areas, as well as the dog park as a whole, would likely be cordoned off with chain-link fence, Howard said. No artificial lighting would be provided.

While many of the Commissioners seemed receptive to the idea, Commissioner Vona Johnson brought up that not all residents in the nearby area may want a dog park. Some, she said, had even told her in the past that they were opposed to a dog park. To that end, she advised that the board not approve the dog park location immediately, but wait until the next public meeting — July 9 — to hold a public hearing on the issue. 

“I think it’s important the we get the input from both sides,” Johnson said.

Howard and Farnsworth agreed with that idea. They told the Capital Journal that they felt confident most Pierre residents would support a town dog park — or at least, could be allayed of their concerns over it — and that a public hearing would help convince the Commissioners of to finally approve the location.

“We’re ready for the public responses,” Farnsworth said. “That’s a fair way to do it, and we’ll see where this leads.”

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