Sigaty tries to help Columbia dog park clear latest hurdle

A Howard County law that places restrictions on unleashed dogs could complicate the opening of Columbia's first dog park.

The law stipulates unleashed dogs are allowed only on private property or county-owned parkland.

The planned 2.7-acre Columbia DogPark, off Rivendell Lane in Harper's Choice, is being built by the Columbia Association — a nonprofit that owns and operates open space, pathways and other amenities in Columbia.

Because CA's land is neither county parkland nor private property, it fails to meet the leash law designation.

A resident pointed out the technicality to County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty, whose district includes Columbia, and she began to work on legislation designed to address the issue.

The legislation, which was introduced earlier this month, amends the county law to allow unleashed animals to be "on private property that is enclosed and posted as a dog park."

Sigaty said the current law is outdated and created before dog parks became an acceptable land use in society.

"The legislation was perfectly appropriate at the time, but society has changed and the way we do things has changed," she said.

"In my mind, it's no big deal, but it should be done because I want to make sure the CA dog park should prosper," Sigaty said. "[The legislation] is bringing the language in line with what we think is good policy, and we think dog parks are good policy."

Sigaty said she hopes the legislation will be passed at the first opportunity, which is the council's first meeting in March.

According to CA spokesman David Greisman, the legislation, if approved in early March, would not delay the anticipated May opening of the DogPark, which has been delayed several times since it was announced in summer 2012.

Immediately following the announcement 19 months ago, nearby residents of the proposed site, off Cedar Lane, voiced opposition to the plan.

After their concerns were addressed, a financial issue emerged as an additional $55,000 was needed to build the park. In November, CA announced the opening of the park would be delayed until spring to give time for the grounds to mature.

The DogPark, which will be located behind the SportPark, will cost CA $135,000 to build and will have two fenced-in areas — a 2-acre space for large dogs and a seven-tenths-acre space for small dogs, as well as two water stations.

It will be open from sunup to sundown, seven days a week, and will have varying registration fees. The fees for the park are outlined in the draft 2015 and 2016 fiscal year budgets, which could be approved as early as Feb. 27. They are $5 per day for a resident, $6 per day for a non-resident.

An annual fee option of $35 per resident and $40 for non-residents is also available. According to Greisman, the funds raised will go toward operating costs.

The entrance road to the park will be repaved and hold 19 parking spaces, including one space designated for vehicles that require handicap-accessible parking. Greisman said the park will be staffed periodically by staff from CA's Open Space Management department.

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