Rover, rejoice: Dog park coming to Worthington

Matt Gerish - SNP


With the recent blessing of the city, the dogs of Worthington will be able to frolic in a park all their own this year.

Where the frolicking will take place, however, and who will pay for it is still up in air as the city continues to eye locations for the creation of its first dog park.

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Worthington City Council members gave their unanimous approval for a resolution supporting the creation of a dog park in or near Worthington in 2010.

The decision brought the timeline for the project down from an estimated 18 months from city officials.

This is not an issue that should wait another 12 months. This is an issue that should move forward now," said Worthington City Councilman David Norstrom.

The decision was met enthusiastically by members of Worthington Organized Off-Leash Friends, or WOOF, who packed the City Council chambers this week for the discussion of the park.

WOOF has been working toward a devoted dog park in Worthington since it was formed in March 2009 with 35 members. Since that time, the group has swelled to include 248 members and has raised more than $2,000 in private donations.

Last week, the group received nonprofit status from the state.

Although receiving the support of council was another step forward for the project, the city and WOOF still must decide where the park will be built and how it will be funded.

The city originally had its eye on nine locations for the park.

The two locations that have received the most consideration include undeveloped land owned by the city on Godown Road but located in Columbus; and the rear athletic fields behind the football stadium at Thomas Worthington High School, called the Flats.

Norstrom said he has been advocating for the city to drop the Godown Road location from consideration since he joined council in December 2006.

He said residents would have an easier time walking to the location near the football stadium.

Regardless of the location, organizers will need to secure significantly more funding before the project can move forward.

WOOF has estimated costs to build the park on Godown Road could run anywhere from $95,000 to $165,000 for a basic park. A wishlist of upgrades could push the cost up as much as $85,000 more.

Costs of a basic park near Thomas Worthington High School could run anywhere from $45,000 to $50,000, with a list of possible upgrades tacking on as much as $245,000.

The potential upgrades include everything from wading pools and agility trails to lighting, paved parking and additional restroom facilities.

The city, which is facing budget shortfalls in 2011, has not committed any funds to the project so far.

"When we look at those challenges or constraints, we have to think of new ways of doing business," said Phil Miller, chairman for Worthington's Parks and Recreation Commission.

In light of the difficult financial times, Miller said organizers likely will look to grants and private funds to make the project a reality.

In the coming months, project stakeholders will be invited to Worthington Parks and Recreation Commission meetings to discuss issues such as space, parking and competitive use.

The commission is expected to report on its progress to City Council by April 30.