Small Town News
Lewes Unleashed working to develop dog park
Group to begin fundraising
Lewes Unleashed wants to prove to City of Lewes officials there's a need for a dog park and show that developing one shouldn't be difficult.
About 30 people gathered Jan. 26 at the Lewes Public Library for an organizational meeting to develop step-by-step plans to create what would be Sussex County's only dog park.
In November, members of the group presented the idea to Lewes Mayor and City Council and the public. Dog park opponents were vocal, some saying they didn't want a dog park anywhere in the city, and city officials said it was too soon to discuss park location.
"We left, that meeting very confused as to what their thoughts might be," said Taylor Abercrombie, a founding mem-bersof Lewes Unleashed.
Abercrombie said group members met individually with members of city council and found the panel's main dog park concerns are liability, control and finances.
"The information we've gotten from other dog parks is that liability isn't an issue," Abercrombie said. He said Virginia Zrake, a local attorney and a dog owner, has volunteered to help Lewes Unleashed with legal questions.
Concerns about dog park control - access, human and animal health and safety, and maintenance of the facility - would probably be Lewes Unleashed responsibilities.
To have better control of park use, the facility might be a limited-access park, open only to those who have memberships or pay a user fee.
"It's going to be a Lewes Un-leashed-managed dog park. The city doesn't want it," Abercrombie said.
He said elected officials have also made clear the city doesn't have money to fund a park. The city wants the park developer to be financially sound to ensure the park is maintained and, if interest wanes, to be able to restore whatever land is used to pre-park condition.
The group has talked to Mike Rawl, administrator for The Greater Lewes Foundation, about establishing tax-exempt status and obtaining public,-county or state funding for the project.
Abercrombie said Rawl might also assist with fundraising campaigns such as dog washes and sell-a-brick programs.
Abercrombie said the first choice Lewes Unleashed has for the dog park, George H.P. Smith Park and Blockhouse Pond, has been eliminated from consideration by the city.
He said discussions about using the Smith park had become very emotional at the November meeting. Smith is a former Lewes mayor, now deceased. Members of his family live opposite the park and use it frequently. "They feel it's a matter of respect that dogs not be brought - there," Abercrombie said.
Consideration is being given to use of a portion of a 66-acre parcel adjacent to New Road the city leases from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
The group estimates a minimum cost of $20,000 to establish a park in any location. The facility must be fenced; it would require water and signage and would have amenities such as benches for humans and exercise stations for dogs.
The organization's next steps are to obtain conceptual approval of the park from the city, raise money, seek financial pledges and develop a publicity and event-planning strategy.
For additional information, go towww.lewesunleashed.org.
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