Pickerington Times-Sun

'Friends' group, township at odds over dog park maintenance

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The Violet Township Dog Park opened in July two years ago with accompanying optimism and fanfare.

It came to fruition as a result of a collaborative effort between the township and a group of area residents which appropriately called themselves "Friends of the Violet Township Dog Park."

An agreement was in place whereupon the non-profit "Friends" group raised half of the money to fund the construction of the project, about $42,000, in exchange for Violet Township's promise to maintain the 8.9-acre park.

Recently that relationship has become strained as some core members of the citizen's group have taken the township to task over what they deem is a failure by the township to adequately maintain the park.

A contingent of the Friends of the Violet Township Dog Park, lead by township resident Sarah Jackson, appeared at the Violet Township Trustees meeting June 5 to ask the township to keep up a regular maintenance schedule.

"I don't think the dog park is a high priority with (the township)," Jackson said.

She said nine of 20 trees in the park have died because of the lack of proper watering and as a result an "adopt-a-tree" program was initiated by the group to ensure the rest survive.

Jackson also expressed concern with the lack of consistent mowing in the park.

She said fellow group members had to take charge of some maintenance duties last Spring.

"In April I got 14 volunteers to work on a Saturday morning at the dog park," Jackson said.

"We planted 200 pounds of seed, we put dirt around the trees, fertilized trees and trimmed bushes," she said.

"We essentially did work that (Violet Township) said they were going to do," Jackson said.

She said volunteers were taken aback by a collective lack of support from the trustees for their efforts.

"They never even thanked us," Jackson said.

"We had 14 volunteers give up a Saturday morning to work at the park," she said.

Jackson said the group wants to plant nine donated trees this summer, however, the township recommends they wait until the fall.

Township Trustee Gary Weltlich said the township has expended more than $30,000 the last two years to maintain the dog park.

"We're more than doing our share," Weltlich said.

"I think we have a disagreement. We've spent a lot of time and a lot of money maintaining that dog park.

"It's something to be proud of," Weltlich said.

He said the optimal decision would have been to wait a year before opening the dog park instead of in 2011.

"I used the soccer fields on Milnor Road as an example," Weltlich said.

"It's indestructible because the grass was given the opportunity to grow and take root," he said.

Weltlich said the township is keeping the grass cut at four inches high after consulting with landscape experts. He said the township prefers to wait until the fall to plant additional trees.

"The township is under tremendous pressure to replace the trees, but you don't plant trees in the middle of the summer," Weltlich said.

Violet Township Engineer Greg Butcher said his crews are doing the best they can to maintain the dog park with limited resources, especially with respect to mowing.

"Currently, we mow the grass at several cemeteries, four parks, two office buildings, the senior center, the former maintenance facility and Diley Road between Busey Road and Kings Crossing," Butcher said.

"A part-time staff of two performs these responsibilities," he said.

Butcher said he has lined up volunteers to help maintain the dog park.

"I have engaged a group of National Honor Society students from Pickerington High School North to water the existing trees as necessary," Butcher said.

He said there are no other plans for the dog park.

"It remains a top notch facility that has been well-received and frequently used by the residents of the community, as well as other communities," Butcher said.

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