County dodges dog park discussion

Lumpkin County Commissioners unanimously passed the new Animal Control ordinance that requires dogs to be on a 10-foot non-retractable leash, but most of them don’t want to talk about it. 

Questions sent by The Nugget to all commissioners went unanswered by Chairman Chris Dockery and Commissioner Bobby Mayfield.

Commissioner Rhett Stringer skirted the question of whether or not he was in favor of an off-leash area and the reasoning behind it, or if he hadn’t made up his mind, by saying, “I think it is unfortunate people were letting their dogs run around out of control … [and then there’s] the issue with poop on ballfields [that] has to stop. I believe as long as dogs are under control we will have no issues and no problems with well behaved dogs.”

Commissioner Dr. David Miller declined to answer that question all together. The only commissioner to answer said he very nearly didn’t respond.

“I thought about not responding but then decided to give you my opinion,” said Commissioner Bob Pullen.

Pullen said he is “more in favor of it than not. I can’t tell you everything that is planned for Yahoola Creek Park, but unless it can be said there is no place in the park that it could be done, I would be in favor of it. You would think there would be enough land to do something like that.”

Most likely there wouldn’t be much of an issue, except that when the new Animal Control ordinance was first brought up at a BOC work session Dockery questioned if there wasn’t an area in the park where dogs could be off-leash. He requested staff to take a look and see if such a space could be found.

“We did as directed by the BOC,” said County Manager Stan Kelley. “After our assessment, we do not have a suitable area that I can comfortably recommend.”

The Nugget asked Kelley about a park area mentioned at the meeting that various boards have deemed unusable for sports fields since the park opened. Kelley said the area has been used by the county to obtain dirt for various projects, making the land uneven. It is used annually for the sheriff’s turkey shoot “only because he does not require a large flat, grassed, open space,” Kelley said.

 

OFF-LEASH PARK OFF THE TABLE

This information was passed on to commissioners along with the fact that several years back G.O.L.D. Dog Park, Inc. offered to fence, landscape and maintain an area for a dog park on county property at its own expense. They were asked what their thoughts were.

Dockery was the only sitting board member at the time and the only one familiar with the group and its plans.

At the time G.O.L.D. Dog Park was active, it had gathered numerous volunteers and commitments for labor and materials to both build the dog park and maintain it. 

The county was willing to provide acreage at the canoe outtake on Highway 60, but the Corp of Engineers would not approve the location. The county rents that property from the Corp.

Miller said since he had not “had the opportunity to review the pros or cons,” he had “no comment” on that question.

Pullen said if the group could put together a presentation he’d be willing to look at it.

Sandy Steele and Marian Warlick, two leaders of those attempting to establish an off-leash dog park in 2009-2011, were present at the meeting where the new ordinance was passed and were glad about the prospect of the issue being reopened.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the article in The Nugget,” Steele said. 

She is still passionate about the benefits of an off-leash area for both dogs and the community.

Warlick agrees. 

“A fenced off-leash area … would be a tremendous asset to Dahlonega and Lumpkin County,” she said. Warlick has been involved in therapy dogs for years. She added that volunteers would be “happy to maintain it [and] make sure park users obey the reasonable rules.”

As to whether or not the group could be reignited to put as much effort into a not-nailed-down project again, that may be iffy. When Steele called former enthusiasts she only got one response—Warlick’s.

“They’ve given up, ” she said. “But I’m loathe to give up. I don’t want to consider anything this important as a dead issue. It ain’t dead yet.”

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The Dahlonega Nugget

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