CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- Where to put a proposed dog park on Chincoteague still is a matter of debate, despite the fact that thousands of dollars have been raised to pay for one.
A group advocating for the dog park wants it built at an unused ballfield at Veterans Memorial Park, according to Donna Leonard, who is spearheading the project.
Leonard is a member of the town's recreation and community enhancement committee, which has made recommendations about the dog park.
Three residents, including Leonard, spoke in favor of the Memorial Park location during a public comment period at Monday's Chincoteague Town Council meeting.
Toni Cox said she has had experience setting up a dog park elsewhere and said, "Site selection is a critical consideration."
She spoke against putting the park at another location that has been discussed, near Hallie Whealton Smith Nature Trail, saying, "It is quiet and serene. To put a noisy dog park in that area would destroy the tranquility of both sides of the trail."
Cox also said the cost would be prohibitive because of wetlands permitting considerations and the need to install bathroom facilities.
"The ballfield, on the other hand, is practically ready-made for a dog park. The noise would not interfere with the sounds of playing children; it is flat, mostly fenced, near water and bathrooms," she said.
Deb Martin, who recently moved to Chincoteague, also spoke against the nature trail location and for putting the dog park at Memorial Park.
Leonard said since embarking on the project, the group has sought others' ideas and even hired a professional to look at potential locations.
"The recreation and enhancement committee voted to have it at Donald Leonard Park — Mr. Frese (Councilman Jim Frese) objected. We went in another direction. The mayor directed us to go to Memorial Park — we did. ... We keep going back to Hallie Smith.
"So what I'm here tonight to say is, Hallie Smith has never been recommended by either the professional that was here, nor the committee, but it seems to be the reason that we are holding up," she said.
Leonard said the nature trail site would cost "a tremendous amount of taxpayers' money, over and above what we have raised as a group."
But other residents, including military veterans, are against putting the dog park at Memorial Park.
Two residents spoke Monday against the proposal.
"That park was donated to this town by veterans of this island," said James Russell of the island's American Legion post.
"Putting a dog park down there, with children playing all the time, families there doing picnics, could be detrimental," he said, voicing concern about children's safety.
Jack Cherrix said he is a dog owner but has concerns about locating the dog park at Memorial Park.
"Who is going to be responsible for that if there's a lawsuit?" he said.
The Town Council took no action on the dog park, which was not on the agenda, but Leonard is hoping it will do so in the near future.
Leonard has started a Christmas card campaign to advocate for putting the dog park at Memorial Park — she asked people in favor of the location to send or drop off at the town offices Christmas cards signed by themselves and their pet and addressed to the mayor and Town Council members.
Leonard handed out Christmas cards to council members and the mayor at Monday's meeting.
The Town Council voted a year ago to accept donations from anyone who would like to see a dog park built on the island. The funds are entirely separate from town funds, said Finance Director Karen Hipple at the time.
Dog park proponents held a fundraiser earlier this year and started a Facebook page, Tump Dawgs United for a Future Park on Chincoteague Island.
Town Manager Jim West reported to the council that an estimate was received for construction of the dog park at Memorial Park. The proposal will be reviewed at the Dec. 12 meeting of the Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee, before the matter is sent to the Town Council for consideration.