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Idea pitched for new Reno dog park

By Jeri Chadwell

There are estimated to be nearly 110,000 dogs in the region, according to Washoe County. And they need a place to play and exercise.

A Facebook group recently sprung up promoting the idea of a fenced dog park at Wilkinson Park off Taylor Street east of Wells Avenue.

It was started by local entrepreneur and dog rescuer Jaime Chapman, who purchased a home near the park last year and likes to go there with her dog, “a girl named Bill.”

Chapman said she first had the idea for a fenced dog park at Wilkinson when she noticed how many people go there and allow their dogs to run off-leash, despite it being illegal to do so. 

She even witnessed a fight between a leashed and an unleashed dog there. She added that Washoe County Animal Services, whom the people with unleashed dogs refer to as the “dog cops,” often must come to the park and threaten lawbreakers with citations.

“It’s obviously a problem,” Chapman said.

Chapman said she researched all of the parks near her home and discussed with city Parks and Recreation staff about why many of them were not a good option. Then she pitched the idea of Wilkinson.

Now, she and others in the community—those in favor and opposed to the park—are waiting for the City of Reno to determine if the idea is even feasible.

If it is, Chapman said she’d ultimately like to see a dog park modeled on a new zero-waste standard, with composting for dog waste on-site that can be harvested once a year by a company like Down to Earth Composting. She’d like to see the soil that comes from it put back into the park to plant flower beds.

Jaime Schroeder, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Reno, said the city is indeed looking into the dog park idea. She was clear that it wouldn’t be a quick process. 

The city will have to determine if trees in the park can be protected and must ensure that sports activities scheduled at the park during eight months out of the year wouldn’t be interrupted or impeded. They’d also have to determine how to make the dog park ADA compliant. 

A few in opposition to the dog park have expressed concerns about the possibility of an interruption to sporting activities held there. Others have suggested a new dog park would become crowded by people who live outside of the area. 

The next steps would be considering how the project would be funded. Dog parks like the Biggest Little Dog Park in downtown have been funded through community fundraisers, which are met by the city in-kind through the donation of staff time.

All of this would have to happen before the city conducted outreach to homeowners in the area and held public meetings to seek input from the community. Online and during a face-to-face neighborhood meeting Chapman organized on Monday, people expressed views in favor and in opposition of the idea.

“There’s definitely going to be a process we need to go through since this is going to be a potential new amenity for the park,” Schroeder said. “I appreciate that Jaime had the neighborhood meeting earlier this week, and our parks manager did attend to sort of just listen to … the pros and cons.”

Schroeder said that the parks department is very short staffed right now but that they will be working with the city’s arborist and engineering team to explore the feasibility of the park. If it’s determined the idea can move forward, it will still be several months in the making for just the planning stages.

Schroeder said the city currently only has five dog parks but that there is a demand for other amenities like additional sports fields and pools too.  

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