Calls to suspend the dog park registration fee until improvements were made to the facility have been rejected by commissioners.
Commissioner Julie Carson raised the issue at the Dec. 8 city commission meeting but only Commissioner Justin Flippen supported her. Mayor Gary Resnick, Vice Mayor Scott Newton and Commissioner Tom Green voted no.
“So many things are in the process of being corrected,” said Carson, who suggested the fee, $30 for residents and $60 for non-residents, be suspended for six months or until improvements were made.
The commission vote came two weeks after resident Michael Rajner shared his concerns over the state of the dog park, located at Colohatchee Park.
Patrick Caan, Leisure Services Department director, said the fee was instituted in 2008 because residents were complaining that non-residents were crowding them out. Cann added that the fee was already suspended for a year because of the construction of the apartments next to the park. That development, said Cann, has prevented the city from doing a lot of maintenance because construction crews are blocking the access road used to get trucks into the park.
One resident, Ralph Borrelli, said he has paid the fee three times in the past but refuses to pay now. “If it was kept up, I’d pay it. They don’t replace things when they break.” He also complained about the park becoming a place where men come to have sex with each other. “People don’t come here [gay and straight] because of the cruising.”
To address that issue and help manage the park better, the commission voted earlier this year to hire a full time park ranger. Other planned improvements include re-sodding grass in the dog pens and trimming trees. He estimates the work would be finished by the middle of January.
But park users want to see more done.
“They should just turn this whole thing into a dog park,” Rajner said. He wants to see water stations, new trashcans and larger pens so dogs have more room to run and play. “You get eight dogs [in the large dog pen] and it gets crazy.”
Water bowls were previously available but Caan said concerns about bacteria resulted in their removal.
Andy Ryan, a Fort Lauderdale resident, said users are pretty good about cleaning up after their dogs and called the bacteria concerns unwarranted. “It seems like a lot of the stuff here is not based on fact.”
Rajner also wants the city to find a way to re-sod without closing down the pens and keep the park open more like other dog parks. Wilton Manors’ park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Pompano Beach’s dog park is open every day except Tuesdays.
Caan said he would look into creating a temporary dog pen to be used while one is closed. He also said he would meet with Rajner to review Rajner’s request to have a space set aside for dogs at Island City Park Preserve.
Cann said dog park users would be able to voice their concerns during a focus group that will begin in February. An exact date has not yet been determined.