A citizens group seeking to open a local dog park is moving closer to realizing its goal in 2010.

A citizens group seeking to open a local dog park is moving closer to realizing its goal in 2010.

Pickerington City Council unanimously passed a first reading of legislation last week to add a dog park to the permitted uses on the 8.9 acres at the corner of Pickerington and Steman roads that are designated as a planned restricted industrial district.

The move is an initial step to allow Violet Township and the Friends of Violet Township Dog Park to build a 2.3-acre dog park that would be free and open to the public.

Once the legislation gains final approval, township officials and members of the citizens group who have been backing the project since 2008 hope to move the project forward and open the park this fall or by spring 2011.

"We will need to develop final construction plans," said Bill Yaple, Violet Township's director of operations.

He said when the final plan is approved, construction can start -- hopefully, by this spring.

In September 2008, township officials agreed to donate a portion of the land being considered for rezoning for a dog park. They also committed to funding approximately half of the project, which at the time was estimated to cost about $110,000.

Since then, design modifications and a decrease in materials costs have lowered the project's price tag to approximately $80,000.

The Friends of Violet Township Dog Park have secured roughly $26,000 from fundraisers for the park's construction. Carolyn Adams, president of the nonprofit group, said verbal commitments for additional financial gifts and tree donations have moved the $40,000 target within sight.

"We're almost there with a couple more in-kind gifts that might be rather substantial," she said.

Although the land for the dog park is owned by the township, it must be rezoned by the city because Pickerington governs uses of land in the incorporated and unincorporated portions of Violet Township.

Pending final approvals by Pickerington City Council and the remaining donations, the dog park would feature a 54-inch fence around its perimeter. Plans also call for a dog water fountain, up to 19 trees, an asphalt path, a wheelchair-accessible parking area and a wealth of green space where canines can romp off-leash.

"It will be an excellent place for people who share a common interest to socialize," Adams said. "We're starting a park for people with their dogs.

"It's a good place for people to go and relieve their stress, and well-socialized and well-exercised dogs make for better pets and neighbors. They bark less, they dig less and they are better behaved, in general."

Yaple asked city council to waive the required three readings and pass the rezoning on Tuesday to help expedite the project.

While no council members objected to the project, council President Tricia Sanders and Councilman Brian Wisniewski said they'd like to have at least one more reading of the proposed rezoning.

"I'd like to have another just in case someone would like to come forward, but I have no problem with the dog park," Sanders said.

No members of the public spoke in support or opposition of the project on Tuesday.

A second reading of the rezoning legislation is expected at council's Feb. 2 meeting.

In the meantime, the Friends of Violet Township Dog Park are continuing to solicit donations for the project.

Those wishing to contribute can do so by mailing checks to Friends of Violet Township Dog Park, P.O. Box 565, Pickerington, Ohio 43147, or by visiting the group's Web site at www.vtdogpark.org.