By Bob Uphues
A dog park in Brookfield – a subject that's reared its head and barked several times since at least 2003 – could be a reality by next year now that the village board has given the go ahead for the village's recreation director to pursue it.
At the village board's April 8 meeting, Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari outlined a plan for a dog park to be located on the western edge of Ehlert Park, in the greenspace just north of Congress Park Avenue, between Elm Avenue and the new parking lot.
This time around, the push for a dog park appears to have a little more ambition than previous efforts – in 2003 and 2008 -- which fizzled for lack of action.
"It seems like this topic comes up frequently and nothing happens," said Ferrari in a phone interview following the April 8 meeting. "I'd like to see this happen. The comprehensive plan supports it, the Open Space Plan supports it. It's a matter of who gets it done."
The plan also has the full support of the Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission, Ferrari said.
According to the plan pitched last week, the dog park would cover a half acre, surrounded by a fence 4- to 6-feet high, with a double-gate entry way. In addition to a large open area within the fence, the park would also feature an agility course structure and a water fountain that could serve both people and dogs.
A potential roadblock to the project is its cost, estimated to be a little more than $32,500, which includes the cost for fencing, the agility course, waste station and bag refills.
But, Ferrari said, some residents have expressed a willingness to serve on an ad hoc fundraising committee for the effort. In a memo to the village board, Ferrari proposed raising 60 percent of the money needed to build the dog park, with the village kicking in the remainder.
Ferrari indicated a special 501c3 nonprofit could be created to raise funds for the dog park. It's possible that Ferrari also might approach the Brookfield Beautification Commission, which already has a nonprofit fundraising arm called Beautify Brookfield, to see if there's an opportunity for partnership.
Ferrari hoped the dog park could be included in the village's 2020 budget.
"Right now the goal is to identify the core advocates of the year-long process of putting the park together," said Ferrari.
In terms of funding ongoing maintenance costs of the park, Ferrari said the village could use a permit system where, for a fee, local dog owners get a fob, which can open the gates to the park.
Ferrari's enthusiasm for the project is based in good part on resident input gathered in a 2014 survey whose results were incorporated into the Brookfield Open Space Plan and a separate 2017 survey specifically commissioned to assess village-wide interest in a dog park.
In the Open Space Plan survey, almost 80 percent of the 200 respondents were in favor of a dog park. The 2017 survey recorded 380 responses, almost 90 percent of which favored a dog park.
The 2017 survey indicated that more than 85 percent of respondents said they'd support paying an annual user permit fee for use of the dog park. Ehlert Park was the preferred site, said Ferrari.
Village trustees appeared to support moving forward with the plan, though there were some questions.
Trustee Ryan Evans said he'd like information on any liability implications a dog park might bring, while Trustee Ed Cote suggested directly talking with residents on Elm Avenue across the street from the proposed location to see if they have any specific concerns.
Meanwhile, Trustee David LeClere wondered if it was possible to push back the west fence about 10 or 15 feet to move it farther from the sidewalk. Trustee Michael Garvey also wondered whether the park could be screened from the Elm Avenue side by shrubs or trees.
Ferrari said she would follow up on those issues, particularly reaching out to residents of Elm Avenue.
"I think it'd be wise to be proactive in approaching them to see if they have concerns we can nip in the bud from the get-go," Ferrari said.