Columbia to get first dog park in 2013

Columbia could have its first dog park by spring 2013, according to Denis Ellis, Columbia Association's Director of Capital Improvements.

After receiving support last month from Harper's Choice Village Board members and residents, CA staff has recommended that a dog park be built off Rivendell Lane near the CA SportsPark. The land currently has two softball fields.

"We conducted a pretty extensive search through open space to find a dog park," CA landscape architect Jan Clark said. "The site, we think, is really good, quaint, and the Harper's Choice board is supportive."

CA has pre-approved $10,000 in planning costs and $80,000 for construction, Clark said.

CA staff will begin the design process, which could take up to three months, this summer and then, if all goes as planned, the zoning process in the fall. Clark estimates it would take a month to bid out the project, and that construction could begin as early as February 2013.

Howard County's lone dog park is at Worthington Park, in Ellicott City, which opened 10 years ago. The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks Advisory Board is currently in the process of deciding whether to build a dog park on the east side of Columbia at Blandair Park.

"Columbia has something in the neighborhood of 90,000 residents, and there's not (a dog park) located in Columbia or is at all that convenient to Columbia," Ellis said. "There is a tremendous interest in dogs and people feel this is a great amenity to have. We think that ideally it's likely that two dog parks in Columbia would be well-supported and get a lot of use."

Clark said the main factors that go into selecting a site are proximity to residences, parking and accessibility. Clark emphasized the importance of creating a buffer between residential buildings and the park space, and said that the Harper's Choice site presents an ideal scenario.

The Harper's Choice Village board unanimously approved the plan at it's June meeting.

Cynthia Coyle, Harper's Choice representative on the CA Board, said the site is under utilized and that the dog park is a better use of the area.

"I'm thrilled about the idea," Coyle said. "The land is ideally set up. The dog park will get used every day, all the time. Generally the ballpark goes unused."

Coyle said her only reservation toward the plan was in regards to the Longfellow community that has used the site for the past four decades for their Fourth of July softball game. Coyle said it is important that the CA and village board work with the county to find a place for the annual game.

Ellis said that CA's decision to look in Harper's Choice was, in part, influenced by the county's plan to place a dog park on the east side of Route 29.

Originally, the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks Advisory Board was scheduled to make a recommendation at its June 20 meeting. But due to the volume of input — which was divided — the board was forced to table a decision until its next meeting in October.

The county has identified two sections of Blandair park, one in the southwest and one in the northwest, as potential locations for a dog park.

Raul Delerme, Howard County Bureau Chief of Capital Projects, Park Planning and Construction, said the CA's choice of location goes well with the county's choice.

"I think it would be good to have them that distance apart," Delerme said. "It spreads them out, which is definitely a good thing. I think you can serve the community better that way."

Delerme estimated that in the best case scenario, construction could begin on the Blandair park in the fall of 2013, with completion estimated in the spring of 2014.

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