By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT THOMAS - If a couple of Northern Kentucky communities have their way, they'll literally be going to the dogs.
Residents in Kenton County and in Campbell County's Fort Thomas are trying to rally support for dog parks. Advocates in both areas want to fence in a couple of acres within an existing park, so that dogs can safely run free and socialize with one another.
West Chester Township's new dog park, Wiggly Field, opened Wednesday within the township's Voice of America Park. For the past four years, the township has sponsored a dog fest the first Saturday in June.
"I'm sold on (dog parks) because I like dogs and I know what dogs mean to people," said Villa Hills resident Tom Biedenharn, who has visited dog parks around the country with Tasha, his standard poodle. "This allows dogs to run free without a leash and collar and socialize with other pets. You can't do that in any of the neighborhoods or parks because of leash laws."
Dog park supporters in Fort Thomas will make their pitch to city council tonight. Biedenharn is asking dog lovers to attend Tuesday night's Kenton County Fiscal Court meeting to show their support for a "paw park" in Pioneer Park.
At a national conference for city managers last week, dog parks were all the rage, said Fort Thomas City Administrator Jeff Earlywine. Many Northern Kentucky dog owners frequent a two-acre dog park in Cincinnati's Mount Airy Forest on Westwood-Northern Boulevard, Biedenharn said. He said it's common to see 30 or more dogs there.
Because of demand, the Cincinnati Park Board is looking into building a second dog park in the soon-to-be-developed Armleder Park in Linwood across from Lunken Airport, said Larry Annett, assistant to the director of parks for the Cincinnati Park Board.
"This is kind of a new phenomenon that's starting to be embraced by the Midwest," Annett said.
Even before West Chester Township opened its dog park last week, the township was being inundated with calls from animal lovers.
"The amount of calls we've gotten about the dog park have been phenomenal," said Chrisbell Bednar, West Chester's parks development manager. "People have said, 'I take my dogs to Mount Airy, and I'd like something a little closer.' So far, we're drawing pet owners from West Chester and the surrounding communities - Liberty Township, Hamilton, Blue Ash, Sharonville and Mason."
Fort Thomas has been mulling the idea since a dog park was first included in a parks and recreation master plan in August 2001, Earlywine said.
A citizens committee has raised about $13,500 to develop a dog park in the back section of Highland Hills Park off Highland Avenue. Although estimates for the park have ranged as high as $26,000, Earlywine figured a basic dog park with fences, gates, benches and receptacles for animal waste could be developed for $18,000 to $20,000.
If members of Fort Thomas City Council decide Monday to build a dog park, they also will discuss location and design, decide whether to commit money from a parks and recreation fund, and set a construction timetable.
Biedenharn wants Kenton County officials to set aside a couple of little-used acres within Pioneer Park for a dog park serving 45,000 to 50,000 pet owners. Then supporters can start raising tax-deductible donations to offset its $50,000 construction cost and $8,350 annual maintenance.
The park would include a 6-foot high chain-link fence that's double-gated to keep dogs from escaping as new visitors enter. There also would be a separate area for small dogs, as well as a "time out" section for dogs that get overly aggressive. Other features: human and doggie drinking fountains, benches and a small walking track for pet owners.
Owners would be required to pick up their pets' excrement, and all dogs would have to be licensed and have up-to-date rabies shots.
"People ask, 'What about dog fights?' " Biedenharn said. "At a doggy beach in Venice Fla., I counted 57 dogs. I didn't see one dog fight, but I saw two different (human) couples argue."
If you go
What: Regular meeting of Fort Thomas City Council. Action may be taken on a proposed dog park after the city's recreation committee discusses the proposal at its 7:15 p.m. meeting.
When: 8 p.m. today.
Where: Fort Thomas City Building, 130 N. Fort Thomas Ave.
What: Regular meeting of Kenton Fiscal Court. Dog lovers will present their plan for a "Paw Park" in part of Kenton County's Pioneer Park.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Kenton County Courthouse in Independence, 5272 Madison Pike.
To volunteer or make a contribution to the Kenton County dog park, call Tom Biedenharn at (859) 341-4455.
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