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14 Facts: Dog Park vs Little League

A Little Leaguer executing a bunt
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An Open Letter of response by Thea Wilshire, Chairperson of Globe’s Parks and Recreation Committee

Darin, thank you for posting this article to encourage better communication and to start to clear up the inflammatory misinformation that is being spread by a few.  And, Jim, thank you for your comments.  You state, “…it is my observation that more ‘homework’ is required.  Before a recommendation or decision to relocate the Dog Park is made, City Officials really need to complete a fact-based utilization review as to the best community use of the current facility.”  I agree with you wholeheartedly and want to let you know that this has been a part of our work all along.

As chairperson of the City of Globe’s Parks and Recreation Committee, I’ve been a part of this discussion from the start and have tried to share all the information I have with all the people involved.  To that end, let me add some background info on this discussion, some findings from our on-going “fact-based utilization review,” and several comments on this issue.

1.  If I didn’t know better, I would think from this article that the meeting you described was the first meeting called about the dog park. Rather, this was a continuation of an on-going series of discussions that the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee started with dog park patrons.  I called the first meeting at the dog park right after I heard that there was talk of changing the status of the park.  I have had hours of discussion with dog park patrons since then and over 2 hours of our publically-posted and open-to-all Parks and Recreation Committee meetings have focused entirely on the dog park.  There has been an invitation for input and dialog all along, as well as transparency each step of the way.  Despite accusations to the contrary, there have been no “secret” meetings, no petitions from Little League, and no powerful business people making demands about the field.

2.  As I shared at the first dog park meeting, this discussion started when our harsh winter weather and frequent storms put the renovations of the Claypool Little League ball fields way behind schedule.   With new city government and what they perceived to be a more open administration, the Little League folks who had left Globe started asking questions about getting back onto the fields they created in Globe.  Based on their questions and investment into those fields (they had raised the funds and done the extensive work to create the fields), the situation was investigated and the lack of any records or council action about the creation of a dog park was noted.

3.  This request from Little League supporters to use the field and the investigation into the history of the field coincided with us having hired Matt Jankowski as the city’s Recreation Manager.  We hired him with several mandates, one being to bring more visitors into our community through sports tournaments, concerts, and events.  By bringing in more visitors, we hope to bring positive financial resources to the entire community through 4 avenues:  an increase in traffic and revenue to local businesses, an increase in revenue to the non-profit groups supported by our local bed tax (several of whom are precipitously close to closing their doors due to the dramatic decrease in this funding source), an increase in sales tax revenue to the city (we are down to $2 million this year from our normal $3 million in revenue), and support for the city’s recreation department and the continuation of Matt’s position (i.e., if he can’t bring in money to run his department, then he will be out of a job).  One of the many suggestions to him for possible increased visitation and subsequent revenue is to bring back the baseball activity for which Globe used to be famous.  To this end, he was looking into what sports field options we have and the condition of these fields.

4.  Each different type of baseball and softball has different regulations about what is required for a field (e.g., length of bases, length of outfield, infield condition, pitching area, etc.).  We only have two fields in Globe that meet Little League requirements.  I didn’t know about the different field regulations when we started this discussion and had believed like Darin that “there are more than enough playing fields in Globe already.”  However, the truth of the matter is that for Little League there are only two fields that can be used for games:  the ones by Noftsger Hill B & B (one of which is now being used as our dog park).

5.  As a part of our utilization review, it was last reported to me that there are 565 kids enrolled in the Pinal Mountain Little League with over 1/2 of these kids coming from Globe.  [I have been told that due to very negative interactions with the former city administration regarding parks use, the Globe Little League grew frustrated, gave up their charter, and started funneling kids over to Pinal Mountain.]  All of these kids take limited turns on the Claypool and Globe fields for practices, but need regulation fields for games.  It has been difficult for years to get all of the games scheduled onto the limited fields.

6.  As a part of the dog park discussion, the Parks and Recreation Committee looked at the costs of building a new Little League field to allow the existing Little League field to remain in use as a Dog Park, but the costs are higher than those associated with creating a new space specifically dedicated to dog use.  Additionally, at the request of dog park patrons, we investigated and discussed having the current ball field space be shared between Little League users and dog park patrons.  However, the liability associated with having kids and dogs potentially in the same space, as well as the problem of having the dog owners be without a place to gather for the duration of the Little League season or having to move around to other parks during the Little League season, negated this option.

7.  Because our state-funded revenue streams are being slashed, the city is looking for alternative and diversified funding streams.  One source of funds is to increase our tourism base (see financial incentives listed in #3).  We have numerous groups and committees looking at ways to bring visitors into our area and it has been discussed that one of the things an increasing number of visitors look for is the presence of a dog park for use by their canine traveling companions.  Consequently, the dog park is important not only for our citizens who use it on a regular basis, but also for travelers who increasingly look for and expect this community amenity. [As an aside:  in talking about state funding streams being slashed, it is my opinion through discussion with other community’s elected officials that we are doing better financially than any other community in the state.  This is due largely to the prior administrations’ fiscally conservative governing approach and their ultra-lean budgeting for city departments.  Additionally, it is impacted by current and prior visionary leadership groups.]

8.  In addition to utilization review, we are also considering safety issues as we gather facts for an objective analysis of the needs of our community. A little while ago there was a situation where a child was in the dog park without a dog and began to harass one of the canines.  Reportedly, he threw his baseball mitt at the dog and the dog, thinking it was a game, took off running with the mitt.  Adults associated with the child reportedly came over and began to threaten the dog owner and the police were called.  More threats allegedly followed and the situation was eventually resolved, but not to the satisfaction of those involved.  This drew more attention to the need for us to look at safety issues associated with our current designation of a former Little League field as a Dog Park, particularly with children present at the neighboring field for baseball and large dogs present near balls with a short fence delineating the park boundaries.

9.  Darin, you state, “Any action to change the status of this park would have to go before the City Council”.  The dog park was never put into place by council action; it was done by the former City Manager without notification to the council.  No Parks and Recreation Committee meetings were held on this and no documented input was obtained as to this decision.  Consequently, this could be “undone” just as easily by the current City Manager.  [Please note that the City Manager was not acting inappropriately in this decision.  Unless we become a charter city, the City of Globe is legally mandated by the state to use a Manager-Council form of government just like all other cities and towns in Arizona.  Consequently, the City Manager makes all the decisions on the daily running of the city while the City Council sets policy and decides the vision or direction the community is going.  The day-to-day decisions, such as how parks are designated, are within the purview of the City Manager’s responsibilities.]

10.  Early on in this discussion, it was suggested by a few people to “just take down the dog park signs and let it go back to being a ball field.”  As chairperson for the Parks and Recreation Committee, I adamantly opposed this. I explained that we can have sites to accommodate both groups and I do not want to see the Little League field revert to ball use until another facility has been created for a Dog Park with dog park patron’s input and involvement.   I have been a dog park supporter for years and have visited dog parks in multiple states.  I planned to work to eventually get a dog park for our community, but then action was taken by the former City Manager so I focused on other community tasks — though I felt the “ball field” Dog Park was a poor space for the purposes of being a dog park with few of the amenities most other dog parks have.  Despite this, I brought my dogs up to the park, made doggy poop bag dispensers and attached these to fences (prior to the “official” dog park designation), worked to get “Dog Park” signs remade and put back up when the originals were removed by vandals, and insisted that the Dog Park be added to the parks section of the city’s new web site (www.globeaz.gov) when it was not originally listed.

11.  As a part of this discussion, there have been many possible dog park sites suggested, some by dog park patrons and some by Parks and Recreation Committee members. Research has been done on all.  The already fenced, free 17-acre Mountain View Estates site was one site I proposed, but many of the dog park patrons felt it was too far away (it’s at the junction of the 70 and 77 highways). I don’t think any of us would have thought of the presently-favored Pioneer Hill site if one of the dog park patrons had not strongly insisted that the location be somewhere mid-way between Globe and Miami.  Once the Pioneer Hills site was brought up and positive response received from the dog park patrons present at that Parks and Recreation Committee meeting, we began moving forward with feasibility studies.

12.  As a part of these feasibility studies, key players at the city have visited the site and confirmed that this could be made into a basic dog park with little extra cost.  First, to make the site safer, city workers can spend a day working on earth moving using city-owned equipment without having to contract with outside labor.  This would fit under the scope of their job descriptions, be in service to tax payers, and not cost us any additional funding.  Second, it was found that this land was donated to the city with the mandate that it only be used as a lift station or a park, so this would fit within those stated objectives.  Third, one of the biggest obstacles to starting a new dog park is the availability of land and the cost of the fence.  The Pioneer Hills site has both of these challenges nailed down.  Not only is it city land and 50% larger than the ball field, but there is a 6′ high industrial-grade fence already in place.  Matt Jankowski looked into fence costs and found that to buy 3′ high fencing with a top bar for 1 acre of land (about the size of the ball field), it would cost about $10,000 and that doesn’t include the cost of installation.  Several dog owners stated they needed a much higher fence for their larger dogs.  Consequently, this site would meet that request and already has a better fence than the current one in place at the ball field.

13.  If we go with the Pioneer Hills site, a local business man stepped up and volunteered to get us gravel for the parking area once it is flattened out a bit.  Other non-dog-park-user people have offered to give money to the project.  I met with my tax accountant and found out that money given to a city for a public park is considered a tax-deductible contribution, so the dog park group will NOT have to create a non-profit or account of some sort.  If people get behind this park and do some fundraising (perhaps with Dewey or Frank serving as mascots?), we can bring in more and more amenities besides the basics in place at the current dog park.  I bet the three local vets might even “sponsor” some of the amenities.  With some planning and based on the prioritized wishes of the dog park patrons, we could move toward having an area set aside for older and smaller dogs, build a shaded ramada or two with benches, put in dog agility training equipment, construct a dog water fountain, get local artists to paint murals on the buildings, possibly build a small pond for the dogs to swim, put up a bulletin board for posting notices and communication between dog owners, and possibly add picnic tables.  A walking trail along the inside perimeter of the fence might be nice and could be very easily constructed.

14.  There are multiple volunteer groups that could be invited to participate in the development of this park: Scout troops or boys working on their Eagle projects, some of our contracted prison labor, school kids (though not at the same time as prisoners), Parks and Recreation Committee members, Globe Clean and Beautiful, churches, and dog park patrons.  The Little League supporters have even voiced their willingness to help!

Jim, we have been doing our homework, we have been working on an objective analysis, and we have been completing a “fact-based utilization review as to the best community use of the current facility.”  You state that it is “obvious” that the city’s “present position is to relocate the dog park.”  Yes, that is completely true.  We want to provide both dog park use and appropriate Little League field use.  Based on the facts listed above, I stated from the very first meeting that this was our intention, have given my commitment to work toward having another dog park in place before the field reverts to its original Little League use, and have invited the dog park patrons to gather supporters, form a committee, and give input as to what they desire in their new park.

I think we can create a dog space so much better than a small ball park.  In fact, what a great opportunity this is!  If the question about the use of the field was never brought up, then the current Dog Park would probably never have been improved upon and just left as merely adequate for the dogs (though a great place for the community-building that occurs between dog owners who frequent the space). Whether we open a new park at the Pioneer Hills site or at another location, I think we will end up with so much more by the end of this process.  Though a vociferous few are setting this situation up as a scheme by the city to deprive them of any park use, this is simply not the case.  Compared to the few, I believe there are many more people willing to talk and work and improve our community through the addition of a new dog park.  I am hoping that all involved can come to the place of embracing this opportunity, working together, and celebrating our community’s future.

Thanks for reading this very long post,

Thea Wilshire, Globe City Council

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  1. We have posted the Open Letter of Response by Thea Wilshire, Chairperson of Globe’s Parks and Recreation Committee, on a separate post since it covers so much information. It shows the efforts being made to create a win-win for both parties whose interests and priorities are competing for the same ground.
    Wilshire makes several good points in outlining the history and current status of the park and which reflect the City’s willingness to work on a solution which will satisfy the needs of both.

    You can catch the full post under: 14 Facts: Dog Park vs Little League.

  2. Thank you, Thea, for taking the time to respond to my post.
    You covered a lot of ground and I appreciate it.

    I believe with that with communication between all parties-
    dog owners, sports fans, and our Globe-Miami neighbors, we
    can create a spectacular site for the community.

    While I did my best to keep my post unbiased, anyone who knows
    me knows I support a change, and I believe the Pioneer Hills site,
    with some polishing, just might be it. It’s an excellent opportunity to
    create a truly special Dog Park!

  3. Good job Thea! What great information.
    You have put much time and effort in being sure we are all well informed of the history, and where were at currently with the dog park.

    You are a voice I’m proud to have on my City Council

  4. Thea, thank you for the comprehensive account as to how this issue/debate has evolved. My knowledge of this matter, until very recently, has come to me second-hand.
    In spite of the open, transparent nature of the dialogue you describe with all parties concerned, there seems to have been considerable confusion surrounding the decision-making process. Perhaps some of this confusion results from people hearing different accounts…..and, the inability for all interested parties to gather together at the same time to hear the same thing and express concerns etc. So, as new ideas are floated & discussed, and the process evolves….not everyone is hearing the same thing. Anxiety levels rise.
    One thing I was confused about pertains to the ultimate authority in this matter. Thea, you state above that the City Manager made the original decision to establish the Dog Park, therefore can revisit & change that decision without Council approval. Understood. However, at the Parks & Rec meeting a couple weeks ago, I left believing that Council action would be required. I do not mean to be trivial…..however, that knowledge is important to individuals attempting to understand how they can influence the decision-making process.
    Regarding the ‘utilization review’ —- I for one, was most interested in learning why it is believed that baseball activities will automatically return to the field in question. Observation by myself and others during the 2-3 years PRIOR to Dog Park designation reveals that the field was seldom utilized by baseball kids. VERY SELDOM. Yet, we know that the current site is utilized by dog owners DAILY, all year long. A response to this observation/question should be explained in such a Review.
    There is no doubt in my mind as to the good-faith attempt by you and others to facilitate a win-win result for the entire community (including our dogs!) — and it seems as though all stake-holders are beginning to get ‘on the same page’ in terms of timely, accurate information.
    Thanks for your dedication to this important community issue.

  5. Cheryl Brazell

    As an owner of 3 dogs who consume an awful lot of my time and affection I am very interested in the Dog Park debate. We take our dogs to the park twice a day when at all possible. This morning was a beautiful Globe morning and in the 30 minutes we were there 10 furry friends shared the park. Last evening 5 dogs were chasing each other around with us.
    Having said that, I am always aware when we are there that it is, or was, a baseball field. If it is truly needed for a ball park for children then I do not have a problem turning it back to that use. However, we do need a dog park. We need it for our own community and for the RV travelers and visitors to our area. We now have 3 RV parks and plans for 2 more. These people travel with their pets and their money. They will stay longer in an area where they feel that they and their pets are welcome. The dog park committee, my husband being one of the members, has adamatly rejected the Pioneer Hills site. They are representing the feelings of most dog owners. I do not feel so strongly. Money is tight for many of us right now and a site already owned by the city and already fenced is a plus. If the city is willing to help and work with us I feel we should listen. There is much more to be discussed and I hope everyone involved will keep a cool head and an open mind and get this resolved. One question I have is whether or not the Pioneer Hills neighborhood wants us there. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.


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