Dog park talk fizzles

by Kelly Corbett
Monday, January 13, 2014

The topic of a town dog park has made up the majority of discussion since June by the Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee but came to a halt on Monday, Jan. 6, shortly after the committee received negative input from town staff.

The proposed location, within the Wrightsville Beach Town Hall Municipal Complex, is designated as the primary temporary debris management site for disasters, stated public works director Mike Vukelich in an emailed response to parks and recreation program supervisor Katie Ryan.

“In addition it can be assumed that usage would be similar to the town’s recycling center usage, which was 70 percent nonresidents and 30 percent residents from a survey conducted several years ago,” Vukelich stated.

He said the location is also designated for overflow parking for events. Further parking concerns were cited by Vukelich and town manager Tim Owens with the N.C. Coastal Federation’s new regional headquarters nearby.

Fire chief Frank Smith stated the lot is used by the fire department for training drills with larger equipment.

“While this may seem like a minor issue, there are very few sites left in Wrightsville Beach where we can conduct this type of training safely,” Frank stated.

Police chief Dan House had concerns about the responsibility of enforcing dog owners to clean up after their dogs with the burden possibly falling on the police department and Wrightsville Beach Park Ranger Shannon Slocum.

“As it is we spend a great deal of time dealing with this issue and more dogs will just mean more issues,” House stated. “And I also agree with Mike [Vukelich] that we will have more Wilmington residents taking advantage of the dog park than Wrightsville Beach residents, and don’t see how that will benefit our citizens.”

Parks maintenance supervisor Evan Morigerato agreed with Smith’s and Vukelich’s comments, adding that the proposed dog park location is also used as a stock yard.

“We keep stockpiles of mulch, sand, topsoil and any other bulk material in that location,” Morigerato stated. “We lost our original location when the public safety building was built, and any other location on the island would be impractical being that the majority of it is used here centrally in the park. The back gate is also an entrance to the park maintenance shop and is used daily for travel and for deliveries that cannot weave through the road on the backside of the public safety building.”

He also cited the expense of dog waste bags as an argument against a dog park, which has been mentioned during committee meetings. Currently, $3,500 is budgeted for dog waste bags around the Loop and town.

“Adding a dog park will increase the consumption of those bags, adding a substantial amount to what is already spent,” Morigerato stated.

During previous meetings, committee members heard input from Slocum along with New Hanover County, City of Wilmington and other officials knowledgeable about dog park pros and cons. 

Members were aware of some town uses of the proposed location, but not to the extent of the information provided in the emailed statements from town staff in mid-December.

“The town seems to use that piece of property for a number of things,” said Chairman Greg Files. “… With all of the concerns that are there, I think that if we want to move forward … we need to start searching for another site.”

Ryan said she does not know of any other town properties that would accommodate a dog park, except for the location between the tennis courts and the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History where the volleyball courts are located.

“It sounds like we gave it our best shot,” Member Trish Green said. “… Maybe somebody will donate two lots.”


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