- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Some opposition is surfacing to city government’s vision of a dog park on the Evansville State Hospital grounds, and city officials said those views will be heard.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s administration had earlier envisioned a dog park as one component of Roberts Park to be developed over the next several years on the former Roberts Stadium site.

The dog park was later removed from the Roberts Park blueprint, and Winnecke proposed it be moved to the State Hospital grounds as part of a privately funded endeavor. The State Hospital grounds and Roberts Park are to be connected by a pedestrian bridge over Lloyd Expressway.

Now, though, petitions against a dog park for the State Hospital grounds are being circulated. One vocal opponent is Shane Thread, a Signature School teacher and coach of the school’s cross country team, who noted the popularity of the State Hospital grounds for recreational runners and for team training.

The State Hospital grounds have long been used for team workouts because they provide a loop route, and it’s not uncommon for many teams to be running there simultaneously, Thread told the Evansville Courier & Press (https://bit.ly/1skiH0S ).

“People wishing to use the dog park would be required to drive along the loop road in order to park and to gain access to the dog park,” Thread wrote in a letter to Parks and Recreation Director Denise Johnson. “Because of the concurrent peak running and dog walking times, before and after typical work hours, many runners and their families are concerned that the location of the proposed dog park will jeopardize runners’ safety and diminish the positive attributes of a long-standing and needed Evansville running experience.”

Thread has encouraged running advocates to sign petitions opposing a dog park at the State Hospital grounds.

Pam Grewe of Evansville, in a Courier & Press letter published Sept. 24, said she objects to the plan because she feels it would disrupt the State Hospital grounds’ natural beauty. She encouraged residents to voice concerns to Winnecke at his Traveling City Hall meetings.

Johnson, the city parks director, said she has heard those objections and also one from the local Special Olympics organization, whose athletes use a baseball diamond at the State Hospital site.

Johnson said she also hears from many supporters of the dog park idea.

The dog park plan would cover more than six acres, and trees on the park’s perimeter would not be disturbed. Johnson said dogs already roam the State Hospital grounds, but they do so off leash.

Johnson said she and Winnecke both feel Evansville needs a new dog park, and there has been public sentiment in favor of one. She said she has not yet been able to discuss with Winnecke objections that have been raised about the State Hospital site.

“These are things I’m going to have to talk to the mayor about when we get out of budget (discussions),” Johnson said. The mayor’s office and City Council leaders remain in negotiations about the city’s 2015 budget.

Opponents’ voices will be considered, according to Johnson. “It’s something we’ve got to deal with. We’re going to listen to everybody,” she said.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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