Millsboro officials eye White Farm property for dog park

MILLSBORO — Dog park preference in Millsboro has taken a new “leash” on life.

And town leaders are turning to the city of Lewes, home of a membership-based dog park operated by the non-profit Lewes Unleashed Association, as a model.

“It is a fantastic facility,” said Millsboro Councilman Tim Hodges. “It’s fenced in. There are three or four areas. It’s all organized.”

Property earmarked for a new town park near Millsboro’s western limits is out and rural town-owned land known locally as the White Farm property is in as the preferred location for the proposed dog park.

In a survey conducted by the town of Millsboro last April, a dog park ranked among the most popular suggestions for the approximate 11-acre town-owned parcel near the intersection of Godwin School Road and Route 24.

Mr. Hodges, who has visited the Lewes Unleashed park, said he believes the White Farm property would be a more appropriate fit and an ideal location.

“After looking at it I don’t see the town of Millsboro accomplishing anything along those lines by trying to squeeze it in the area that was allocated in this park area. However, the town does have a lot more property at the White Farm. That is my recommendation,” said Mr. Hodges. “If you’re talking about allocating a half acre or acre compared to three to five acres — I am pet lover, too; I don’t have a dog right now, but I have — and I’d much rather have a larger piece of land where they can actually run and play.”

Noting the results of the survey, town Councilman Jim Kells initially proposed that a dog park be based in the new park. But he subsequently agreed with the consensus favoring the more spacious White Farm property.

“That makes a lot of good sense. I’ve visited a lot of dog parks that are in residential areas. The White Farm is close,” said Mr. Kells. “We did have a survey and it was considered one of the top three conditions. We have many owners of dogs in Plantation Lakes. We’re running out of space as far walking because it’s all development.”

Millsboro Mayor John Thoroughgood strongly recommends that a dog park proposal be membership-based and be privately operated., as is the case in Lewes.

“What I have researched is only one town around has a dog park and that’s Lewes and it is privately owned. The town doesn’t own a dog park. No towns own dog parks,” said Mayor Thoroughgood. “What you need to think about here is people from Ocean View, Bethany Beach are going to bring their dogs to your dog park. So, keep that in mind. It is not just going to be for Millsboro residents.”

The town of Little Creek in western Kent County opened a dog park on town-owned land last year with financial aid from Kent County Levy Court commissioners, who gave a $35,000 community assistance grant for the project. That park is on about 1.6 acres adjacent to the Little Creek Post Office and features separate fenced areas for small dogs and large dogs to roam off-leash.

Millsboro’s Mayor Thoroughgood noted Lewes Unleashed: A Dog Park membership fee is $60 a year.

“I think the only way it is going to work is to have a membership, like Lewes has,” said Mayor Thoroughgood. “We have a lot of land. If you want to start small and grow big, just have a membership for so much and cut it off. That’s a way of controlling it.”

“If membership is $60 a year and if you had 200 dog lovers or 300, that is some serious money at the end of the year,” Mayor Thoroughgood said.

Councilwoman Michelle Truitt inquired about the possibility of a community or private group assuming responsibility of the park.

Mr. Hodges likes that idea.

“I think it makes a whole lot more sense instead of having the town administer it,” said Mr. Hodges. “There’s something about the organization if it’s a private group dedicated to pets or dogs. I just think people will just take care of it more, and respect it more. But if it’s the town, we’re going to have an employee out there frequently cleaning up behind the dogs. Personally, I’d much rather see it under a different organization.”

Water service could be extended to the exact location of the dog park. There is also a conservation easement that must be considered when selecting the acreage and location for the dog park.

With a dog park out of the equation for the new town park off SR 24, council authorized Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson to notify Matthew Spong of Dover-based Landscape Architectural Services LLC on council’s decision. Landscape Architectural Services was contracted by the town to develop conceptual plans for the park.

Council unanimously approved the motion.

This past November, Mr. Spong presented to town council several options for the new park. Those options include an amphitheater/plaza-type feature, walking trails, a splashpad/water feature and Blue Star Garden, which along with a dog park topped the list in spring 2018 survey.

 

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