• January 20, 2020

Northfield continues debating location of, desire for dog park - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Northfield continues debating location of, desire for dog park

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2020 11:40 am

NORTHFIELD — Northfield City Council members are continuing to search for a location for a proposed dog park. 

City Council discussed the project Tuesday, Dec. 17, in a work session immediately before regular meeting. 

Councilwoman Susan Korngut said she met with the city engineer Rami Nassar at Birch Grove Park to look at an alternate location for the dog park. 

“Council will recall that the site we initially proposed, I don’t want to say it wasn’t feasible, but we decided not to use that spot for a few reasons,” she said.

Last year, Korngut raised the idea of creating a dog park. 

The proposed park would be run by a nonprofit organization, which would lease land from the city for the park. Other expenses, including construction of the park and insurance, would be covered by the nonprofit organization. 

During a meeting Nov. 12, 2019, Korngut said the park was planned to be 15,560 square feet and divided into an area for small dogs and an area for large dogs.

Members would pay a fee to use the park, which would be gated and accessed via key fob. City Council originally considered putting the park in a section of Birch Grove Park. However, a bocce ball court and several barbecue grills would need to be relocated to accommodate the dog park. 

A space on the corner of Dolphin Avenue and Harvey Drive was also considered for the park.  

This area is not preferable, Korngut said, because it would be costlier — grading would need to be done and trees would need to be cleared, she said.  

Korngut said they “left it that we would pursue this one location in Birch Grove Park.”

She said Nasser will draw up something more specific that will be shared at a council meeting later this month. 

In the work session, Councilman Jim O’Neill shared feedback he heard about the proposed project. 

He said he thinks a dog park would be great but a few of his neighbors prefer to take their dogs to Egg Harbor Township, which has its own dog park. 

O’Neill said he spoke with a few people at a local restaurant about it and they said if Northfield’s dog park is not equivalent to nearby Egg Harbor Township’s “they’re not coming to our dog park, they’re going to EHT.” 

“What I’ve been hearing from everyone is, ‘We can’t have trees in the dog park. We’ve got to have sand or whatever, gravel. We have to have parking next to the dog park,’” O’Neill said. 

He said he wanted to make sure they are presenting it and letting the residents know about the project. 

“When we bring this out to the public, we have to make sure and say to the public, ‘Here’s what we want to do’ and get feedback, and if we get 20 people to show up and 25 of them say, ‘I don’t have a problem with that,”’ but if 20 of them say, ‘Well, I want parking, and I want this, and I want that,’ then we’ve got to make sure we take into consideration that because I don’t want to build a dog park and people not come to the dog park,”’ he said. 

Council President Jeff Lischin clarified that the project would be run by a nonprofit organization that would lease the land from the city.

“If we’re going to disturb the park and put up fencing, I don’t want to be in a position where if it doesn’t go in the right direction, that now the city is responsible for maintaining fencing and key fobs and all of that stuff,” O’Neill said. 

“I think the point is well taken that it’s got to be taken slowly, and the nonprofit still has to be organized. It still has to go through that process,” Lischin said. 

“I think at this point we’re just talking about location. So once we get location down then we can bring it back to council, with the drawing from Rami for a little bit of help, and we can figure out if it’s feasible. If that location doesn’t work, we look for another one. So it’s the smart thing to do is to do this in baby steps and make sure it’s right before we move forward because we could go through this whole process and the nonprofit could say ‘Well, we don’t like this location’ and it’s back to the drawing board,”’ he said. 

One resident questioned during the public comment portion of the work session whether Northfield’s residents want a dog park. 

“What evidence is there that makes us think dog owners of Northfield want a dog park?,” Peter Brophy asked.

He also asked why City Council thought city residents are OK with “donating a hunk of Birch Grove Park to the dog park?”

Brophy said he lives near the bike path and “I know dog owners in Northfield are happy as clams on the bike path when they’re walking their dogs.”

“I think it’s a great question and I think the dog park idea was brought up by Councilwoman Korngut in reference to some of the feedback she got from the town, from the taxpayers and residents of Northfield wanting something similar to this, so I’m assuming that’s what it is. Personally, I didn’t do that research, but I’m sure there’s been some feedback coming from the residents and in answer to the question of Birch Grove, if we were to donate or lease that portion, it would be through the people of Northfield from us,” Lischin said. 

Brophy asked why they couldn’t make the project a voting question. 

Lischin said a referendum is another option. 

Mayor Erland Chau said if they “did go to the expense and that degree, make it a nonbinding referendum.”

“But to answer your question, in terms of input from the residents, I’ve had, to date, about two or three people who have been interested in having a dog park, and they’ve made reference to Ocean City having one,” Chau said. 

Brophy anticipated there would be heightened interest in the dog park when it was first created. 

“Then as time goes on, probably as colder weather sets in, it will be the pace of, take the dog out for a spin and get back into the warm house as soon as you can, in which case, you’re going to have a situation that Councilman O’Neill is suggesting, and I think that’s a very likely possibility,” he said.

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