MARCO ISLAND — After years of barking on both sides, the issue of whether to have an on-Island dog park was settled by Marco City Councilors, who gave final approval of an ordinance to allow for off-leash dogs in designated park areas Monday evening.
"We've been working six years to get this going. Please unanimously approve this," said resident Deb Chapman.
Councilman Chuck Kiester was the only councilor opposed to the ordinance in the 6-1 vote.
Kiester said if the ordinance came along with the details of the cost of operation, layout and design for the plan, he would be more likely to support it.
Currently, Parks and Recreation director Bryan Milk and the parks committee have agreed the best suited area is at Mackle Park. The plan is to have a 1.25-acre fenced area for large dogs and a .19-acre fenced area for small dogs on the southern edge of Mackle Park.
Milk said the location was proposed because Mackle Park's hours of operation would fit with the idea of sun-up to sun-down access to the areas, with park personnel already on-site during those hours.
Also, drinking water is available in the area as is pedestrian access, minimizing the cost to install the dog runs compared to other park locations, Milk said.
Dog park supporters say the greatest asset is eliminating the 40 minute drive to the nearest dog park, Rover Run, in North Naples, operated by Collier County Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreation Foundation treasurer Terri DiSciullo announced a fundraiser at Mackle Park to help pay for the dog runs. The Foundation raises money for any Florida parks and recreation endeavor, but focuses on Marco, DiSciullo said.
Milk said several dog owners have committed funding for the construction of the dog park, which is estimated to cost $45,000.
Half of the proceeds from the event, "Dog Day Afternoon," which is scheduled 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 9 at Mackle Park, 1361 Andalusia Terrace, will benefit the off-leash runs.
Hotdogs, hamburgers, refreshments and a dog wash are part of the festivities. Leashed dogs are free, according to the flier. A tennis benefit, "Friends of Snoopy," is also being held to benefit the dog runs 9 a.m., Saturday, May 23 at the Racquet Center, 1275 San Marco Road. Contact the Racquet Center at 394-5454 to register.
DiSciullo said that in 2002, when she was running for City Council, there was a petition circulating for a dog park with thousands of signatures in support of it.
Kiester questioned a need for a city employee at the gate to the runs.
DiSciullo suggested a phone to the on-campus community center at Mackle Park might help with safety without adding the cost of additional personnel.
Also to Kiester's concerns about increased liability due to potential dog bites, DiSciullo said that if registration is required for use of the dog runs, perhaps a signed waiver from dog owners to not hold the city responsible could be considered.
City Attorney Alan Gabriel is reviewing insurance and liability issues.
The off-leash ordinance comes about one year after City Council approved allowing leashed dogs in parks on-Island. Milk said selection of the top three dog park names submitted by Tommie Barfield Elementary School students and Marco Island Charter Middle School students is expected after a parks and recreation meeting Wednesday evening. City Council or the committee may then pick the top of three names, he said.