NORWICH – After a well-attended public hearing Tuesday night, the City of Norwich Common Council unanimously approved the authorization of the establishment of the Baker Dog Park, which will be located at Greenway Park on River Street.
Seating in One City Court Plaza was nearly filled Tuesday night for the public hearing on the creation of the dog park, as Norwich High School senior Hannah Baker took the podium to summarize her efforts towards creating a dog park in the City of Norwich since last summer, before meeting attendees were able to ask her questions about the proposal.
"Since last July when I was given permission to start fundraising, I have attended many community events, many meetings, and have had many fundraisers," said Baker, noting to date she has raised $5,400 towards the project. She said she has partnered with NBT Bank, which has offered to donate some matching funds, and Chobani, which has offered to help with the engineering of the park, and both NBT Bank and Chobani have offered employees to help volunteer with the building of the park and its fencing.
She has a number of ongoing fundraisers for the project: a bottle drive at Norwich Nickels Redemption Center; a pin-up sale at the Blueox Neighborhood Store on Rexford Street; a Valentine's Day basket raffle with Pet Street Station; a partnership with Budget Computer Repair, which has pledged to donate $1 toward the project for every sale through March 31; a GoFundMe page and collection cans at Wild Owl Cafe and Becky's Place; and this Saturday, Chenango Arts Council will host the Popovich Pet Comedy Show, where Baker will also have a collection can.
Attendees at the meeting expressed excitement about the creation of a dog park but asked for more information. One woman, who did not give her name, asked about the size of the proposed dog park, whether it would separate dogs of varying sizes, and who would be maintaining or supervising the park. She said in her experience walking her dog, she sees a lot of owners who don't pick up after their dogs, and she suggested without proper enforcement the dog park could become an area of disarray.
Baker said the size of the dog park is still something she is considering along with the city parks commission, but said it will be two fenced areas: one for bigger dogs, and one for smaller dogs. She said she has proposed rules for signage at the dog park, but noted at the end of the day, the dog park's success will come down to a community that wants it to stay.
"When it comes to people not picking up after their dogs, if they want to dog park to stay, then they're going to have to clean up after themselves," said Baker. "If it becomes a dump then it's just going to be garbage, and I think the majority will want the dog park to stay."
Norwich resident Sarah Stewart said she has been to a number of dog parks in Florida and that she is surprised at how well maintained they are despite no enforcement. She said she doesn't ever recall seeing waste in a dog park and she would be more likely to see it on the street. Stewart asked if there would be a cost to use the dog park, and Baker said no.