Although construction won't start until 2020, Whitehall leaders already are collecting input from residents on the design of the city's first dog park.

About 25 residents attended a kickoff to the planning process Dec. 5 at Whitehall City Hall.

"I'm excited about it," 65-year Whitehall resident Jodie Martin said after attending the session.

Martin lives on Washburn Street, adjacent to the site of the proposed dog park, a 2.3-acre tract at the northwest corner of Washburn and Beechwood Road.

"It's a great idea and something our community needs," said Martin, who owns a Yorkshire terrier and Shih Tzu mix. "I'm only disappointed it won't be open sooner."

Whitehall obtained the 2.3 acres for the dog park at no cost after a foreclosed property failed to sell at a sheriff's auction, city development director Zach Woodruff said.

The Franklin County land bank took ownership of the land and it eventually was made available to Whitehall, Woodruff said.

The two lots have been vacant since a residence was demolished about 10 years ago.

Mayor Kim Maggard announced plans for the dog park in October but said the effort to open it began two years ago in response to surveys from residents who indicated a dog park as one of their top wants.

Whitehall last obtained land for the purpose of a public park when Lamby Lane Park opened in 1972, Woodruff said.

Whitehall has four other parks: Whitehall Community Park, Norton Field Park, John Bishop Park and Robinwood Park.

Whitehall Parks and Recreation director Shannon Sorrell presented preliminary ideas to residents Dec. 5 but reiterated the illustrations were only an early example of potential amenities and would almost certainly change as planning progressed.

Sorrell said city leaders would "follow best practices" in the development of the dog park, relying on existing models in other cities and the input of Whitehall residents.

Those who attended the Dec. 5 meeting had the opportunity to sign up for consideration to serve on a planning committee and viewed sketches of how a dog park in Whitehall might appear.

Sorrell said the initial planning session was "encouraging."

"We were able to meet community members who are enthusiastic about the project," she said.

Focus groups and park-design meetings are set to begin in February, Sorrell said, adding a list of preliminary meeting dates would be published next month.

Meanwhile, the city will begin assessing budget needs and researching urban dog-park designs, Sorrell said.

The parks and recreation commission will guide the process.

The administration is requesting $90,000 be set aside for design and engineering in 2019.

Construction of the dog park is not scheduled to begin until 2020, Sorrell said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo