Despite improvements made to Duffeeland Dog Park last year, residents living adjacent to the facility continue to have complaints.
Noise, smell and debris were concerns expressed by residents during the Recreation Centers of Sun City member/director exchange meeting Jan. 9. While the dog park was established by a couple who lived adjacent to the facility and was privately owned, the land was purchased by RCSC four years ago and became part of the corporation’s list of amenities.
Among the improvements made by RCSC include a new north wall with two entrances featuring a double gate system, shade structures, lowering mounds and new trash recepticles. The gates are creating a problem for one resident. Helen Hatcher said the metal gates frequently slam shut and are exessively noisy.
“I live right behind the park and the one gate is right there near my house,” Ms. Hatcher said. “Can something be done to quiet the gates?”
Resident Jerry Sylvester said the solution to the gate noise is to have just one entrance gate and have it be on the east end of the wall, away from the residences.
Structural noise is not the only problem. Mr. Sylvester said barking gets out of hand at times. He said dogs already there bark loudly when greeting newcomers to the park.
“There is one dog trained to bark for a ball,” he said. “The owner throws it, the dog retrieves it then barks to have it thrown again.”
Noise is not the only problem, Mr. Sylvester added.
“People do not pick up after themselves or their dogs,” he said. “After the park is cleaned, we find bags and other debris in the holes in the wall.”
As that wall abuts residents’ back yards, the debris usually ends up in their yards, according to Mr. Sylvester. In addition, dog toys also end up in their yards, he added.
“I used to give them back,” he said. “But I won’t anymore.”
Mr. Sylvester also said it appears most park users do not follow the park rules. He also wants park hours to return to the dawn to dusk format rather than set hours.
Jim Wellman, RCSC assisatnt general manager, said officials will research solutions.
Mr. Sylvester said the only real solution would be to station monitors at the park. However, Mr. Wellman said that would be costly, especially in light of the new minimum wage. RCSC officials claim a $1 million budget impact in 2017 due to the minimum wage increase.
Ron Smith, RCSC board member, said as a member of the Duffeeland Dog Park Club he believes the park is being monitored pretty well by club members.
“We may need to monitor barking better,” he said. “The dog club will look into this.”
Dottie Paradis, Duffeeland club president, said members have been encouraged to keep gates from slamming shut. But she added there seems to be a flaw with the gates.
“They are supposed to close slowly, but they don’t,” she said.
She argued that having various park hours based on sunrise and sunset would be confusing. In addition, closing the park at an earlier hour would restrict its use to dog owners who like to go later in the day. Club members also requested new types of containers for the bags.
“I will give every neighbor my phone number and encourage them to call me if there are problems,” she said. “We are trying to teach our members etiquette and we stress courtesy to our neighbors.”
However, she said no facility is working 100 percent as expected.
When RCSC purchased the park, officials required the formation of a club to oversee and monitor the dog park. The group embraced that role, and has conducted activities to not only encourage good use of the park, but to help give back to the community.
Duffeeland Dog Park Club members hosted their second Doggie Days late last year and raised $1,500, according to Tracy Bussibarger, a Duffeeland club member. The group donated the funds to the MCSO Animal Safe Haven unit, she explained.
“This event went over quite well,” she said.