Community

Design, fundraising underway for North Liberty dog park

Many of park's features and cost still yet to be determined

Jake Villhauer and his wife, Rachel, walk their two dogs, Marshall and Maddox, on July 28, 2015, along Park Ridge Road in North Liberty. Villhauer is a member of a committee that hopes to build an off-leash dog park in the city. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Jake Villhauer and his wife, Rachel, walk their two dogs, Marshall and Maddox, on July 28, 2015, along Park Ridge Road in North Liberty. Villhauer is a member of a committee that hopes to build an off-leash dog park in the city. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

BACKGROUND

The North Liberty City Council redirected $225,000, which had been set aside for trail lighting, to be used to purchase land this summer for an off-leash dog park.

Obtaining a park was the result of a yearslong effort by the Johnson County Dog Park Action Committee to fundraise and lobby the city.

In June, the committee made a $50,000 donation to help jump-start the construction, and members have pledged to raise more.

Without the local park, North Liberty dog owners would have to drive to Cedar Rapids, Coralville or Iowa City dog parks.

The committee formed about four years ago as a grass roots effort to advocate for a North Liberty dog park. Jake Villhauer, president of the group, said a dog park will only enhance North Liberty’s feeling of a family-friendly community.

“The park benefits the community as a whole, not just the dog community, as dog parks are one of the only park lands that are actually a form of revenue for the city,” Villhauer said.

Early estimates of construction costs of the park reached $1 million. But Nick Bergus, the city’s communications director, said a final estimate hasn’t been determined since the park still is being designed.

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At the time of the June 11 City Council meeting, the city had identified a roughly 11.5 acre lot on the northeast side of the curve of North Liberty Road near where it meets Penn Street for the park.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE

At a meeting later in June, the City Council approved a resolution to purchase the land for the dog park. City staff are in working to annex the property, which is currently county land,

The annexation process might be complete by the end of the year, Bergus said, which would allow parks crews to start clearing the property this winter, with weather permitting.

Bergus said the goal is to open the park by summer 2020.

Much of the design and the fee structure for parkgoers still is up in the air. Villhauer said the park will include defined areas for small dogs, training and obedience and all dogs.

“We have tossed around different ideas and attractions, such as an agility course and possible water features, but nothing can be set in stone just yet,” he said.

In addition to working on the tag or fees policy and design input, the committee is continuing to fundraise, Villhauer said. The group made a five-year commitment to help financially support the park, which includes taking part in community events like Blues and BBQ, Trunk-or-Treat and Beat the Bitter.

For residents hoping to support construction of a dog park, they can donate on the committee’s website, northlibertydogpark.com.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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