By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen city officials went to Georgetown to find out how to let a park go to the dogs.
Members of the Killeen Animal Advisory Committee and Parks and Recreation Department met with Georgetown Parks and Recreation officials at Bark Park on Friday.
Georgetown's latest addition is 6 acres at a cost of $85,000. The city already owned the land that was full of pecan trees. A Georgetown resident who sits on the parks board began pushing the issue a few years ago and convinced the City Council to approve $85,000 in this year's budget for the park.
The city fenced in a 5-acre area for large dogs and a 1-acre area for small dogs weighing less than 30 pounds. Each fenced area includes an additional "time out" fenced area, benches, trash cans, bags for waste and a water fountain with a spot for humans and dogs to drink from. Each fenced area also has a double-gated entryway.
All that at a cost of $70,000. Georgetown city officials said they hope to add more dog amenities such as hurdles and a walking trail with the remaining $15,000. In the long term, they said to hope to install a pond.
"The people who love dogs are very happy about it," said Kimberly Garrett, director of Georgetown Parks and Recreation.
She said there was opposition from residents who thought the money should be used elsewhere, but enough people wanted it and it brings people to the community.
"We are getting visitors as far as Round Rock and Pflugerville," Garrett said.
On Friday, Don and Rachel Scott, of Jonesboro, Ga., near Atlanta, were at the park. They didn't come to Georgetown for the park; they were vacationing in the area, but said they loved coming to Bark Park.
"This is the nicest dog park we've been to," Don said, noting he has taken his boxer, Greb, to many parks in the Atlanta area. "This is very impressive. It's huge."
He said the dog park in Georgetown was perfect.
"Dog parks need clear lines of sight, which this one has, a lot of area, water, a good fence and this has all of it," Don said.
The grand opening for Bark Park was Oct. 24 and people who frequent it say they've seen as many as 20 dogs in the park at once.
Ken and Karen Sears have brought their shepherd mix, Princess, to the park a couple times each week since they discovered the park a few weeks ago. Ken said the trees make it a good setting.
"You get the shade in the summer and nuts in the fall," Ken said.
Jen Penland said the park is a good place to relax and study for school because her golden retriever, Gladys, can expend energy without bothering her owner. She said it is also good socialization for the dog and owner.
"It's nice to meet other dog owners in the community," Penland said.
Larry Cole, Killeen City Councilman and Animal Advisory Committee chair, said a dog park for Killeen is in the study phase and Friday's trip was part of that.
"I think it is something that would be a benefit to the city," Cole said.
He said it would then move forward to planning phase before a recommendation goes to the full council for approval.
"I think this is great," said Rudy Norman, Killeen resident. "I think this would do us."
Norman has asked the city to consider a dog park and went on the trip to Georgetown with the committee. He said Georgetown has a good model of keeping it simple.
"We don't have to build a Taj Mahal," Norman said.
Norman has a Doberman pinscher.
"She loves to run and jump," he said.
Norman grew up in San Diego, where there are several dog parks. He said it is just another element for quality of life.
"If you build it and make it available, people will use it," Norman said.
To pet owners, Norman said, the animal is part of the family.
"You wouldn't deny your children a playground," Norman said.
Councilman Juan Rivera, alternate member on the Animal Advisory Committee, also went on the trip.
"Look at the citizens over here; they are relaxing and having fun," Rivera said.
Dog owners at the park said the dogs rarely show aggression toward each other.
"You'll get a (dust-up) in here once in a while with two dogs," Don Scott said, adding the owner usually steps in and controls the situation.
The park has a set of rules posted at the gate that include requiring the dogs to have up-to-date vaccinations and city registered tags proving so.
Killeen Police Department Capt. Steve Hoskins, who oversees the Animal Control Division, said if Killeen opened a dog park it would likely be heavily patrolled initially to get patrons accustomed to complying.
The city of Georgetown also had to adopt an ordinance allowing animals to be off lease in the dog park. Like Killeen, Georgetown has an ordinance requiring all dogs not confined on private property must be kept on a leash. Killeen would have to adopt a similar ordinance.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550