Residents urge the city of Decatur to improve dog parksAdair Dog Park is located on West Trinity Place in Decatur. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Decatur, GA — Decatur residents are urging the city to improve the dog parks, citing lingering issues including stormwater problems.
There are three dog parks in Decatur – Adair, Oakhurst and Glenlake.
The city has made a few improvements to Adair Dog Park, including adding a second entrance along West Trinity Place, removing a fallen tree and fixing a water fountain that was leaking. But residents would like to see greater improvements to the park.
“I think there’s day-to-day deferred maintenance things that we need to do sooner versus later. I appreciate the residents pointing them out,” Commissioner Kelly Walsh said.
A few residents have noted various stormwater issues at Adair Dog Park, saying it’s the park’s biggest challenge.
“Adair Dog Park is wonderful. It is a value add to the city. If you fast-forward, I think about two decades since it originally opened, it’s just in need of some care,” resident Andrew Lewis told Decaturish.
Lewis takes his dog to Adair Dog Park every day. Lewis also relayed his requests to the Decatur City Commission during its meeting on Oct. 13.
“[We’re] just wanting to bring the dog park up to a good baseline that it is the type of place that everybody is able to enjoy without having concerns of who is able to access and when they are using it, the concern of erosion and rubble being problematic,” Lewis said.
Some issues at Adair Dog Park prohibit the park from being accessible and make the park less safe for dogs and their owners who visit the park. Lewis said these concerns include access to the park and water drainage.
“Anytime there is significant rain, all of the water from all sides collects at the bottom of the park in the flat area and turns it into a heaping mess [and] mud pit,” Lewis said.
He added that water runoff also makes the park less accessible for some.
“The easiest access is along Trinity. When looking at Trinity, the water runoff that’s on the street has caused a large gully between the sidewalk and the curb, for anybody that’s disabled, it is an obstacle that they certainly have to navigate,” Lewis said.
When entering the dog park, users walk on a grassy area up to the gate. Lewis said that water tends to collect near the gate.
“It impedes anyone who is elderly or disabled from being able to move throughout the park or at least have access into the park safely,” he said.
Agathe Gabriel is also a regular Adair Dog Park user. She takes her dogs to the park almost every day. Gabriel said some people who come to the park use walkers, and she would like the park to be improved in a way that would prevent them from falling.
“We want concrete in the walkways and some kind of accessibility [improvements], because we have so many elderly people or people who can’t maneuver mud and roots,” Gabriel told Decaturish at a dog park meeting on Oct. 24.
Years ago, construction materials were seemingly dumped in the empty lot that became Adair Dog Park. The construction materials still remain.
“There have been a couple of occasions where dogs have cut up their paws,” Lewis said. “I admit that I think it’s probably going to be a little bit of an ordeal to rid the park of all of that excess material, but if there are plans to revitalize the park in some manner, it should be a part of that revitalization plan.”
Lewis added that he, and others, would like to see the park revitalized in a way that brings it to a “new baseline.” He thinks that would encourage the community to volunteer and be more involved in the upkeep, like at Oakhurst Dog Park.
“I think there’s a lot of hesitation by people to put time and effort because they haven’t seen time and effort really put into the park,” Lewis said.
Residents would also like to see a section of the dog park reserved for small dogs. Lewis said that the large size of the Adair Dog Park is great, but also creates challenges when there’s a constant mix of large and small dogs.
“If there was the potential to add on to the existing dog park to have a small dog park for small dogs and their owners to be able to enjoy the park in the same way without having the fear of their small dogs getting trampled or something worse happening with larger dogs,” Lewis said.
Gabriel agreed and suggested a portion of the open space outside the dog park could be fenced in to create a section for small dogs. Gabriel said another issue is communication.
“I think one of the issues is we never get these updates,” Gabriel said. “I would like them to update either the Adair Dog Park Facebook with updates about the progress or if they update me, and I’ll update everybody. I think a lot of the frustration is we never know what’s going to happen or if or when.”
The city recently hosted meetings about the dog parks to gather feedback from the community on concerns that were most important to them. The meetings were held on Oct. 17 and 24. Attendees were able to place sticker dots on lists of issues for each dog park to mark their top three concerns.
For Oakhurst Dog Park, the list mentioned the need for an ADA accessible entrance. The issues listed for Adair Dog Park included drainage, erosion prevention, concrete in the walkways, and fixing the curb canyon. No one had sent the city notes about any concerns at Glenlake as of Oct. 24.
A tree had fallen and was removed. The city is also working to find and remove the construction material, said Kim Whatley, facilities operations manager.
“I’m working with Kay, our arborist for the city, to walk through a couple different parks and look at trees and identify what is actually dead and needs to be removed,” Whatley said.
There is a stormwater culvert that runs down the middle of the park, and at one point in time the fence went over the culvert. The park is still one large dog park, but was essentially split into two parks. There is a connection point at the top of the park.
“A lot of people have issues making it all the way up the hill and across the top piece, so by putting in the second entrance on the left-hand side of the park, it makes both sides more accessible to the whole community,” Whatley said.
Commissioner Kelly Walsh also takes her dog to the parks sometimes and has recognized some of the issues brought up by residents.
“There’s been some volunteer and community efforts, but I definitely think [for] the city, it’s time to meet them where they are as far as seeing some of the deferred maintenance and making a concrete list with a timeline of ways to get in there and refresh,” Walsh said.
She added that resident groups organize to support the dog parks and coordinate clean-up days.
“We certainly can grow them over time, but we need to optimize what we have right now,” Walsh said. “We’ve got a great amenity and how do we make it better, safer, more resilient and bring it up to something that’s really working well,” Walsh said.
The next step for the city is to identify the biggest needs and funding options.
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