Whitehall dog lovers and their companions soon will have a park to call their own -- and a say in how it is conceived.
The city plans to build a dog park -- Whitehall's first -- on 2.3 acres at the northwest corner of Beechwood Road and Washburn Street, near Lamby Lane Park.
Shannon Sorrell, the city's parks and recreation director, said leaders will abide by "best practices" in the development of the park and solicit public input as part of the process.
The yet-to-be-named space will be the first new park in the city in more than four decades, said Whitehall Development Director Zach Woodruff.
The city last obtained land for the purpose of a public park in 1972 when Lamby Lane Park opened, Woodruff said.
The city has four other parks: Whitehall Community Park, John Bishop Park, Robinwood Park and Norton Field Park.
The city obtained the 2.3 acres for the dog park at no cost after the two lots that comprise it failed to sell at a sheriff's auction, Woodruff said.
The Franklin County land bank took ownership of the land and it eventually was made available to Whitehall, Woodruff said.
The lot has been vacant since a residence on it was demolished about 10 years ago, he said.
Planning and construction of the dog park is expected to take at least a year, Sorrell said.
An opening is planned for sometime in 2020, she said.
Mayor Kim Maggard said the effort to open a dog park began two years ago in response to resident surveys that indicated a desire for a dog park.
In 2016, the city learned one of the lots was available, Woodruff said.
When it recently was made known an adjacent lot was available that provided the space necessary for a dog park, the city moved forward with its plans, Maggard said.
Some Whitehall residents are excited about the prospect of a place to let their four-legged friends roam free.
"I can't wait. This will be fantastic," said Sharron Liston, who lives on Saint Anthony Court and owns a 3-year-old dog, Lucy.
However, other residents have been critical of the park's placement in a residential setting.
Bruce Day, who lives on Beechwood Road, said residents were not made aware in advance of the city's plans for the park and that it would be better suited on city-owned land at East Broad Street and North Hamilton Road, adjacent to Whitehall Community Park, that once was the Four Seasons Golf Center.
Former City Councilman Lee Stahley, at the Oct. 2 meeting of Whitehall City Council, said he was "disappointed" the administration chose to announce a dog park and suggested it had political underpinnings.
Maggard responded the city had no control of the timing concerning when the land was made available.
"There is no reason to hide the good things this administration and council does for the city," Maggard said.