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Jefferson City Parks committee, residents discuss dog park fee

Jefferson City Parks committee, residents discuss dog park fee

April 17th, 2019 by Nicole Roberts in Local News

Melissa Johnson and her 2-year-old boxer mix, Ziggy, enjoy a sunny evening Monday March 25, 2019 as they play ball together at the North Jefferson Recreation Area Dog Park. Johnson said she and Ziggy have been coming to the dog park year round since she adopted him for the Jefferson City Animal Shelter in 2017 in order to releive some of his high energy. The dog park located across the bridge at 810 Sandstone Dr. offers fenced in areas for large and small dogs to stretch their legs and is open seven days a week during normal park hours from 5 a.m.-11 p.m.

Photo by Sally Ince /News Tribune.

Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department staff will review the dog park policies and operations following discussions Tuesday at the Jefferson City Park Resources and Planning Committee.

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A few dog park users attended Tuesday's meeting, voicing opposing thoughts on whether the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department should discontinue charging a dog park fee.

Currently, pet owners must register their dogs with the Parks Department at The Linc, 1299 Lafayette St., before they can use the dog park at North Jefferson Recreation Area. Owners must show veterinarians' notes stating their dogs are updated on their vaccines and have been spayed or neutered.

It costs $3 per dog per month to use the park, but the fees are prorated.

Once the dogs are registered and the fee is paid, pet owners are given codes to unlock the keypad to the dog park at 810 Sandstone Drive.

Resident Stuart Dunkel said he thinks the dog park is "perfect the way it is," adding the fee "is not a hardship whatsoever."

Dunkel said he thinks the keypad was "one of the best things" the Parks Department has done for the dog park. Before the Parks staff added the keypad, he said, unregistered and potentially unvaccinated and unneutered/unspayed dogs used the park.

Assistant Parks Director JJ Gates said the registration requirement ensures the dogs and owners are safe when using the park. If non-registered dogs were to use the park, Gates added, the department wouldn't know if the animals had updated vaccinations or had been spayed or neutered.

The fee can discourage lower-income individuals from using the dog park, Parks Director Todd Spalding said. Dunkel countered those residents could use the public parks instead.

Dr. Ashley French, of Weathered Rock Vet Clinic, said she thinks the dog park fee is "inadvertently limiting access to a public park."

"I don't know if the result we should be looking for should be prohibiting access through fees," she said.

When Morgan Dumsday, also of Weathered Rock Vet Clinic, first took her dog to the North Jefferson dog park, she was confused by the fee since the Katy Trail is nearby, she said.

"It's not so much the fee as the principle that the Katy Trail is right across the road and is free," she said.

The city earns $900-$1,000 annually from dog park fees, Gates said. The fees help pay for some of the maintenance, upkeep and water utility at the dog park, Gates said.

Parks staff looked at how other cities operated their dog parks and found, while Columbia and Fulton do not charge dog park fees, Springfield does.

The Parks Department staff will make any recommendations to the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission at an unknown date for review and final approval, Gates said.

Jefferson City lacks needed dog parks, Spalding said, adding Jefferson City should have two or three areas for people to take their dogs.

"When you only have one small area, that's going to discourage people to go and pay," Spalding said. "They go and find their own spot."

The department has used the dog registration system since the dog park opened in 2006, Gates said.

More than 300 dogs were registered with the Parks department in 2018, Gates said.

The North Jefferson dog park is open 5 a.m.-11 p.m. all week.