by Andrea Cole

Associate Editor

Stow -- Dog owners could have a new place to bring their four-legged friends beginning in April.

Parks and Recreation Director Nick Wren said officials are discussing turning part of Silver Springs Park, near the former swim lake, into a dog park. The lake was closed last year due to low attendance and approximately $40,000 in annual losses for the city.

The proposal for a dog park is expected to be discussed during City Council's Public Improvements Committee meeting, scheduled for Jan. 22 after the Planning and Roads and Safety committee meetings. The meetings are set to begin at 7 p.m. in Stow City Hall.

"I have received many e-mails from residents and non-residents who are interested in having a dog park facility," said Wren. "This will be a forum for them to speak to Councilmembers. We also will give Council an overview of the changes that could be made to the park."

While Wren said he hopes to open the park by April, the proposal first needs approval from Council. A city ordinance that prohibits owners from allowing their dogs in city parks also would need to be revised.

"The new ordinance would be specific to the dog park," he said. "Dogs would not be allowed in the rest of Silver Springs, or in any other city parks."

Councilmember Mary Bednar, chairperson of the Public Improvements Committee, said she does not expect Council to vote on the proposal this month.

"We need to discuss specific regulations for a park," she said. "Most of the comments I have received are from residents who say they think the city's resources could go to something better. I have received one or two [comments] from residents who adamantly want a park."

Wren said preliminary plans for the park include moving the fence, which encloses 8 acres, so the sand volleyball court is outside of the dog park. Wren said the park would need trash receptacles, and he hopes to add "agility equipment, such as ramps" for canines.

He added the dog park would have one unique feature -- a 3-acre lake. The park also would include a closed-in entrance where owners could enter the dog park from Silver Springs, he said.

"This is customary at dog parks," said Wren. "Once dogs are in the entrance, owners can take off the leash."

According to Wren, the cost of adding trash receptacles and equipment is not available, and all costs would be covered through the city's capital improvements fund. The park would not include staff members, Wren added.

"With such a big contingent of individuals who are interested in the park, we hope to create a volunteer group that would help clean the park," he said. "Our maintenance staff would still cut the grass in the park, but we could have a group that would keep a watchful eye on the area."

Although hours for the park and the months it would be open have not yet been established, Wren said he expects the park to be closed during cold weather.

"We probably would lock it up because of the water freezing," he said. "But, we hope to have it open nine months out of the year. If we have a winter like this, it could be open on the warm days."

E-mail: acole@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-686-3947