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Growls Again Over Palm Coast’s Dog Park As the City Pleads Money and Other Woes

| April 3, 2013

Year after year, not much changes at Palm Coast's dog park, at Holland Park, though it remains quite popular. (© FlaglerLive)

Year after year, not much changes at Palm Coast’s dog park, at Holland Park, though it remains quite popular. (© FlaglerLive)

It happened four years ago. It happened again two years ago around this time. And it happened again on Tuesday: Palm Coast’s dog owners and frequent users of the city’s one dog park complained that the place is ill-kempt, too sandy, too dusty, and unhealthy for dogs and people, and should be fixed right away, starting with fresh sod.

They heard the same answers they’ve heard before about the rectangularish, fenced-in slope of slightly less than an acre at Holland Park, in the older part of the city: the water that irrigates the park is salty, the sodding that took place some four years ago was for naught, the park is on a hill.

“Four hundred and twenty-eight dogs. We talked about the dog park in the past,” Mayor Jon Netts said. “Where there’s no money, there’s no money. Let’s take another look at that issue,” possibly relocating the park.

City Manager Jim Landon said a master plan including a second dog park have been sidelined by budget woes, but some improvements are coming, including a water line that will bring so-called “re-use” water to Holland Park, thus enabling the sort of watering that might allow the grass to grow better. That may placate dog owners for a while, if they see results soon. Their complaints were concerted and specific Tuesday evening, as an organized posse showed up to share them with the council.

“We want to discuss the dog park and discuss the little friends we represent – all our different our dogs,” said Norman Weiskopf during public comment at the meeting. “We seem to have a problem over there that the dog park is falling into disarray. And I just want to mention we like the dog park. The dog park is great for our dogs. And for us, too. But it’s still not up to par. It could be a nicer place than what we have today. So we think we should look into sodding it. It’s not a million-dollar project. It would only cost probably a few thousand dollars, which is a lot less than most other projects that we do, and it should be sprayed for tics and lice and flees and all the other things that dogs contract, on a regular basis. So that’s why we’re here. It’s been a long time that our dog park has been looking the way it does, and it’s just not as good as it can be. It can be a lot better. And when it’s bad and it can be made better, it should be made better. That’s the way we feel about it.”

He doesn’t want the sodding to take place next year or when there’s money in the budget, but “right away.”

Wendy Roth told the City Council she sold a home on Anastasia Island, in part because of her love of dogs. She was not the only one to make that point. “I was fortunate to find a Realtor that steered me toward Palm Coast as a dog-friendly community,” Roth said. “And when I first moved here it was a very dog-friendly community. There’s some very beautiful parks here.” Even the dog park, “where I met wonderful friends, and my dog Muddy has met wonderful friends also,” she continued, to a chuckle from Mayor Jon Netts. “But I can’t go there anymore because it’s so dusty that my asthma acts up. Go over there and sit over there for a few days when there’s 20 dogs having fun playing: you can’t breathe.” The conditions are not healthy for dogs or people, she said.

Dave Puckett shows how black his hand gets after petting his dog at the dog park, as he did on April 3. click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

Dave Puckett shows how black his hand gets after petting his dog at the dog park, as he did on April 3. click on the image for larger view. (c FlaglerLive)

She then pointed to Weiskopf, calling him “our mayor,” who’s compiled a list of 450 people who take their dogs to the park. “I moved to this community because it’s a dog-friendly community. You want to attract people to Palm Coast? Fix the park. Advertise it as a dog-friendly place, because it can be. It’s got potential. But you’re not using it. It’s already kind of there and it won’t cost much to fix it. I didn’t move to Ormond Beach because they don;t like dogs, and I moved from St. Augustine–yeah, they’ve got the history, but they don’t like dogs. ”

Jimmy Epps, who’s been coming to the dog park once or twice a week for eight years, said, “I sit there and I watch parks, the soccer fields being fixed, sodded, cut, I watched the softball, the baseball fields, I look at the tennis court with the nice lights, the bocce people over there on their bocce boards, bocce courts, they have seats with roofs on them–it gets hot in the afternoon. I guess what I want to say is, I sit and watch all this and I don’t see anything happening in the dog park. I do thank you for the handicapped walk and the second gate you cut down at the bottom, that was very nice.” But he noted the danger of a walkway that drops off dangerously, particularly for older people. He was also thankful for the “mandatory” water provided for the dogs, but noted a water-fountain that’s never worked for eight years. “I don’t know if you call water dripping out ‘working,’ but it just doesn’t work.” And he was thankful for a big pine stump finally taken out after three years.

Epps also said that the dog community raised $1,000 twice for park improvements, and deserve a better park. Yet “nothing’s been done” by the city subsequently. “So we’d like for your help and we’d like for you to know that we’re getting together. We are one, and we’re going to keep at this, and we love you. We love all of ya. We’d love you more if we had some grass.”

It’s likely not a coincidence that dog-park complaint recur during the driest part of the year, when a shortage of rain amplifies the dry, dusty conditions.

City Manager Jim Landon said the dog park is challenging because it’s located on the side of a hill and there’s no irrigation. “We can’t get the grass to grow because there’s no water,” he said. “The water we do have is well-water that is high in salt, and doesn’t work to keep the grass growing in the trees and the shade. We’ve tried, and that’s the major problem with keeping the grass growing. But, with that said, we do have as part of our master re-use line expansion, Holland Park is actually on our list of projects to do, and that is actually scheduled to happen this summer. Once we get re-use there, then putting down bahia [a type of grass] probably would make some good sense.”

The city manager recalled that Palm Coast has made improvements to the dog park in recent years, including a grand re-opening two springs ago. Budget problems have put a master plan for all of Holland Park, including the dog park, on the back burner, he said. But until the re-use water is extended to Holland Park, the city doesn’t want to do major improvements that would again be wasted.

The plan for a second dog park is for the area of Lehigh Trail east the fire station on Belle Terre Parkway. “That project is not going fast either because of funding,” Landon said.

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34 Responses for “Growls Again Over Palm Coast’s Dog Park As the City Pleads Money and Other Woes”

  1. fla native says:

    money woes??? for this town to be so broke and poor mouthing I sure as hell knows how to waste money when it’s something it wants.

    • ET says:

      You are so RIGHT, it’s not on Netts or Landons agenda, Netts quoted me his favorite phrase “Let’s take another look at that issue,” well that never happened.
      It’s time for a new commanders and chiefs in Palm Coast.

  2. Deep South says:

    I stopped taking my dog their about a year ago because of the worsening conditions, and how it was getting worse. Now I drive further and go to the best dog park around. The Beach.

    • Pati Kelvasa says:

      I also take my dog to the beach for long walks but since I do not have a fenced yard and need to take him somewhere so he can be off leash and run until his heart is content.

  3. irnot says:

    Lets once again resod the median on belle terre or put in more lights that are dangerous and unnecessary on US1 before doing something that people of this city actually want and have a use for.

  4. Think About it says:

    If you have 428 dogs, there must be at least half that in dog owners.
    If everyone chipped in $50 each to help support something their complaining about, that would be a revenue total of: $10,700.00 dollars, if I did my math right.
    Why are people always looking for a free hand out..?

    • Deep South says:

      @ Think About it – I totally agree. Everybody that uses the park should buy a yearly pass for $ 100.00, or pay a daily fee of $10.00. Then the city would have no excuse but to maintain the Dog Park. Most cities charge for use of their Dog Parks.

      • Pati Kelvasa says:

        No problem Deep South, just as long as the people that use the basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, children’s park, etc also pay an yearly fee or daily fee for using the park.

        • Deep South says:

          @Pati Kelvasa I had to pay for my kids to play in organized sports. Part of it went for uniforms, and part of it went to the city or county to pay for use of the field and to pay for the lights for night games. So we do have to pay.

    • Pati Kelvasa says:

      Seriously Think About It! This is not a free hand out. Park maintenance is part of the city budget. At Holland Park they maintain the soccer fields, baseballs fields, tennis courts, playground, picnic area and bocci court on a regular basis. The dog park section is left untouched. And you should be aware that the people of the park have already raised funds and had wood chips brought in which were washed away due to the flooding of the dog park area. Many of the people that use the dog park are retired. They have raised their families and now their dogs are their companions and they are taxpayers.

    • Wendy Roth says:

      Do the people that use the bocce courts pay a fee to use the courts? Are the people that play on the tennis courts that are maintained with my taxes asked to pay extra to maintan their our courts? I don’t think so . What is the differenc? My recreation includes a four footed friend instead of a ball . Why should I have to pay extra to pay for a decent park to enjoy his company in the company of others who share my interest in dog ownership. The people who play bocce and tennis keep getting more and more and more and all the dog people are asking for is a bit of grass. Frankly before you have an opinionabout this why don’t you take a wal;k over and see the difference between the different sections of Holland park. You might just change what you have to say on the matter.

  5. suewho1010 says:

    The water that used to come from the sprinkler heads in the dog park is no different that the water used on the fields. I have taken samples of both two years ago at 10:00pm when the sprinklers automatically turn on. Why not move us temporarily to one of the unused ball fields ,so the town can address the broken irration situation in the dog park and find relief for the hundreds of dogs and owners that visit this place weekly. Most of the posse you refer to are daily users and we can now feel the affects in our lungs and on our skin. Both for the humans and the dogs.

  6. Pati Kelvasa says:

    Thank you for printing this story. I am new to Flagler county and was thrilled to find out there was a dog park here. Unfortunately, the thrill didn’t last long after Bo and I visited there. The conditions are less than desirable and not entirely safe. The lack of grass and over abundance of dirt and dust makes for an unpleasant visit. Even the dog coughs and sneezes for an hour after leaving. In the six months that I have been going there I have heard many comments from people that do not want to bring their pets to the park because of how filthy the dog is when they go home. Some have even said that their vets have discouraged them from bringing their pets to the park. People that are visiting the area and come to the park say they will not return. I hope the city council will address the issues with the park.

    • Agnese says:

      There are about 6-8 senior “bullies” ,and I am not talking about dogs, who think they own the place being very bossy and rude to anyone who is not in their “clique”. I vote to shut the place down.

  7. Outsider says:

    Even if enough people chipped in to resod the park, without irrigation it would be for naught. It sounds like the problem is the salt in the well water. St. Augustine grass is more salt tolerant than Bahia, but it does not stand up to traffic well. Bahia grass is more durable, particularly Argentinian Bahia, but it doesn’t like the salt water. It is drought tolerant however. Until a source of salt free irrigation water is available, any money spent would be wasted.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Lets make the sprinklers, sod, and trees on belle terre last more than three months and maybe we can afford things like this and sidewalks near parks like Seminole woods

  9. Mike says:

    Let’s make the sod, trees, and sprinklers last longer than 3 months And mAybe we can afford things like this and sidewalks near parks like Seminole woods!
    Or maybe the city can stop tearing up my front yard twice a year for 6 years to “fix” the drainage!

  10. David S. says:

    Why doesnt the city use money created by their stupid red light system to improve this park.

  11. BS says:

    Jim Landon,
    The farmers irrigate with well water which does have salt in it, and the crops do grow. May I also add those that live on the west side of the county who only have well water irrigate their flowers and grass with great results. Nice try, but try again Landon!

  12. Sherry Epley says:

    How about sprucing up the park with some volunteer work by the dog owners themselves instead of waiting for anyone else to do it?

  13. Magnolia says:

    I wish people would would put a hand out and pick up the dog poop around here. My neighborhood is not your dogs potty.

    Fine people more for not doing that and there’s your money for the improvements.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The city charges every resident $10 per year for every animal (not just dogs) that they have. Where does this money go? In this story there is $4800 available for this number of animals. Why is there $ shortage to support the efforts of animals when we pay this hidden tax to own them?

  15. Herb Whitaker says:

    The city charges every animal owner $10 per year for each animal (not just dogs) that we own. In the story here of 480 dogs, that adds to $4800, where does that money go from this hidden tax? Seems like the money is provided, just misused.

  16. Lin says:

    Palm Coast is already going to the dogs — agree with Think About it

    If people want to have dogs & support them, fine. Waterfront park is also dog friendly with baggies for poop people coexisting with animals.

    But to ask people who can barely make it to pay for sod & new sprinkler systems so dogs can rest their paws on sod when they play or do their business is ridiculous. To equate soccer fields for PEOPLE especially kids with dogs is just wrong. Dogs are not people, their should be priorities.

    Dog owners, pay your own way. Support your own dogpark Not a fiscal priority to pay for sod. Just silly. Get real.There is a hierarchy of needs here. So many real needs in the community, Stop trying to use other people’s money to support your PETS.

    • Pati Kelvasa says:

      Dog Owners are taxpayers who do pay their way.

    • Snowey says:

      The kids have plenty of parks and other places to play. Dog owners are very restricted as to where they can go get exercise. I was personally involved in the opening of the Jax Beach dogpark and we had no trouble raising funds through raffles, costume contests and the like. All the city did was now the grass and dump the garbage bags. Every other task was performed by volunteers. I do think it is a good idea to show proof of vaccines. Dog owners are not asking for a handout, but Palm Coast should do its part in park upkeep. It has been shown that pets help people have longer lives due to their pet ownership, I can’t say the same has been proven for having children.

    • mad dog owner says:

      So how much do YOU pay for the Soccer fields??

  17. Agnese says:

    I’m sure it would cost a lot more to relocate, all it needs is new sod on the bottom half of the park.

  18. FL informed voter says:

    Palm Coast should look at Deland’s dog park. It is a massive dog park (no charge) that even has a lake in the center so dogs can swim. It’s a long drive, but have been there a few times. Dog owners absolutely love that park. I think the name is Barkley Square or something similar. If PC can duplicate that, no one would be unhappy.

  19. James says:

    The city has no money – maybe they should think about getting some industry in this town.

    • Glad I left Palm Coast says:

      Great idea James but the bonesheads in office are afflicted with “Not in my back yard syndrome”

  20. mad dog owner says:

    It is interesting that there is water available for maintaining the pristine athletic fields but no water for the dog park. A very nice and much appreciated walkway for the elderly and handicapped, but is dangerous because of the erosin that occurs when it rains. Does a person have to injured before our city is concerned about the poor health and safety conditions that exist in James Holland dog park?? There seems to a great deal of money for other concerns in the city but nothing for the dog park. Has anyone thought of approaching a large landscape company, like Verdigrow, and work with them installing sod? There are companies within the city are pet oriented and would probably love the chance to assist with improving the park for a little free advertising.

    I wander if the city would accept free labor from the dog park users and free material from a contractor to make the inprovements inleiu of budget woes we keep hearing about. How much money will they spend on the swails digging them up and resodding, with very little improvement until the figure out that other problems exist? We used to have a $35 fee for city beautification improvements, what happend to the idea of beautification?? We spend how much money of sprinklers, lawn mowing, fertilization, and other maintainence in the City Park area while it sits undeveloped; could some money be diverted and leave the undeveloped area remain undeveloped until maintainence is required?

    I think if the city wanted to imprve the erroded conditions in the dog park, there are numerous ways this could be done. I have attempted to contact the Manger of the Parks and Recreation Department to discuss possibilities that do exsit, but it seems no reply from this Manger is the answer. Our Animal COntrol Officer has also expressed that poor conditions exist, but we would rather stop pets from using any other “NICE” area in the city due to a leash law that is flawed. The city provided a free retracable leash to patrons at city event, however these leashes should be considered illegal due to they can be longer than the 5′ leash specified in the leash law.

  21. Abigail Bryant says:

    I moved from an area in Miami last year (Coconut Grove, Blanche Dog Park) that recently had renovated their dog park. The dog park was about an acre, it wasn’t separated into a large/small park, it it was used DAILY by about 50-75 dog owners. In late 2012, the park was closed off, and artificial turf was put in to eliminate the dirt, mud, and dust problems, as well as new overhead awnings were installed. You can go online and look at the pictures and how clean and appealing the dog park looks. You can see before and after pictures, and read the approving comments since the renovation took place. This might be something that the City should consider to eliminate “watering problems.” It might be costly upfront, but the turf would eliminate health problems for both owners and dogs. It would reduce asthma issues and bringing home dirty dogs. The turf would also reduce possible breeding grounds for fleas and ticks, and can be easily rinsed down by hoses to eliminate the pet waste. It is something to consider, and would make the owners and animals happier in the long run.

  22. Dr. Benson says:

    What do you think our taxes are for ?? Dah !

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