Janesville38.9°

Janesville dog owners look to keep aquatics facility out of park

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Ann Fiore
November 18, 2007
— Skip and Boo meet their friends at Palmer Park every day.

They play tag, explore the wooded trails and splash in the creek when it’s warm.


Their human chaperone, Tom Edwards, says he prefers to keep Skip’s and Boo’s east-side playground the way it is—for dogs rather than users of an aquatics facility.


“It’s a nice little green space,” Edwards said Monday as he threw a rubber toy for the dogs at Palmer Park’s pet exercise and training area.


“You put in a nice 12-hour day, come here with the dogs and pretend you’re in the middle of nowhere.”


Edwards fears the city will build an aquatics facility where dogs now roam. That’s why he’s created a Web site—savethe dogpark.com—and is circulating an online petition opposing a facility at the park.


By Tuesday, 148 people had signed the petition.


The future of Janesville’s two pools and Lions Beach has stirred up some hot debate. After a year of discussion, a resident committee recommended spending $9 million on an aquatics facility at Palmer Park, a smaller facility at Rockport Park and splash pads at other parks.


The Janesville City Council has made no decision on a site. Members are scheduled to discuss the issue at a Dec. 12 study session, when City Manager Steve Sheiffer will present his report.


Sheiffer has suggested a project maximum of $5 million. At the study session, he will offer a range of options that includes fixing the existing pools as well as building new facilities.


Edwards has several objections to the Palmer Park site. Among them are the noise and pollution from nearby Interstate 90/39, the short swimming season, and the cost of building, managing and maintaining an aquatic facility.


Edwards questions whether Janesville can build the regional attraction some people want for $5 million.


“I understand there are options,” he said. “I don’t think the city can afford this park in general.”


People visit the pet exercise area year-round to run, walk, have picnics or play volleyball and baseball, he said. The Janesville Craig lacrosse team practices in the open field.


City officials have said the dog-walking area could be moved south of Palmer Drive if an aquatics facility were built.


But Edwards said the hilly terrain would present a challenge for his friend Bill Vohs, who uses a cane as he walks his two dogs.


Vohs agreed. He sometimes visits the pet park three times a day to exercise his dogs and his bad leg.


“It would be a shame to lose this facility. It does get used,” said Vohs, who has signed Edwards’ petition.


Edwards and Michelle Scott, a dog groomer who also signed the petition, wonder why the city doesn’t repair and expand Rockport Pool on the west side.


“There’s room over there,” Scott said. “It doesn’t make sense. They started it over there.”


At about 3:30 p.m. Monday, Boo, Skip and a dog named Max are the only ones in the park. Over the next hour, at least nine other dogs arrive to play together and slobber on each other’s toys.


Edwards knows most of them by name.


“We don’t always know all the owners, but we get to know everyone’s dogs,” he said.


“It’s more than just a dog thing,” Vohs said. “It’s a social gathering.”


The petition


Tom Edwards is circulating an online petition at savethedog park.com.


The petition reads:


“We, the undersigned, object to using the dog exercise area of Palmer Park as a site for the proposed aquatic center. Please keep this area reserved for dogs and their owners.”



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