Utica dog park approved

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 24, 2018

UTICA — The Utica City Council voted to approve the proposed dog park as presented as part of the planned Pioneer Park at its Sept. 11 meeting.

The dog park was a topic of discussion as to whether it should be added to the proposed park, to be located on the land to the north of Eppler Junior High School, where Hahn Street ends.

The dog park was discussed between city officials and the public during many meetings.

“There may be some small changes to the design as we go forward, but everything will be approved through council as the project moves forward,” Mayor Thom Dionne said.

An Aug. 28 town hall meeting at Utica City Hall focused on gaining community input on ideas for the park — referred to as Pioneer Park, but not yet officially named — in addition to thoughts on putting a dog park inside it. The city received a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for $500,000 to be used toward the land, which is a brownfield development due to previously being a landfill.

The money will now be put toward building the new park and a dog park.

Current plans for the park include connectivity to the Iron Belle Trail, installing bathrooms, improving Hahn Street, cleaning up the property, and creating green space recreational areas for families to enjoy.

Plans for the dog park include having a key fob entry system to help with the upkeep of the park once it is built. The key fobs would have to be purchased.

Other dog park plans include off-leash play, obstacles for the dogs, fencing, an area for food and water for both dogs and their owners, benches, signs, electricity, and more, all of which may be added as the dog park is built.

The city was recently provided with free, clean soil that has already been laid.

The park concept was recommended to the city due to the type of land, which would not allow for residential building.

“I’m all about green recreation spaces in all areas in Utica,” City Councilman Frank Czapski said. “However, the long-term visioning of this brownfield property is pivotal at this time in Utica.”

City Councilman Perry Sylvester noted the possibility of adding safety measures, something that the mayor also mentioned at the Sept. 11 meeting.

“Several residents noted concerns with safety; while not part of the original plan, the city is reviewing its safety measures for all its parks, and the mayor is researching Blue Light safety phones to see if they are a feasible option,” Sylvester said.

“It is my hope that … we will continue to hold meetings inviting public input, and that these meetings will not just present information on the park construction, but also serve as a platform to reach out for comment on how the city will operate the park. In addition, it is important for the public to be aware of the maintenance costs that will be associated in the future with this new addition to the city,” Sylvester added.

Dionne, Sikora, Sylvester, and council members Faith Terenzi and William Osladil voted yes on the proposal, while Czapski and Councilman Chuck Cuddington voted no.

The next City Council meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9. The meetings are open to the public. Those who would like to learn more or get involved can contact the city at (586) 739-1600.