Named for a Scioto County K-9 officer killed in the line of duty in 1994, the “Spock Memorial Dog Park” possibly could be open for off leash visits by your favorite four-legged friend sometime this spring.
Over the weekend, via a Facebook post, Ward 1 Portsmouth City Councilman Sean Dunne announced efforts to get the dog park open and operating pretty much crossed the financial finish line when supporters won a $7,600 grant from the Scioto Foundation.
Set to take over the vacant municipal lot adjacent to the city building at 740 Second St., the dog park also is to be the recipient of a $43,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Dunne said opening the park was a campaign promise he made when he first ran for council back in 2017. But he quickly added the effort to bring Portsmouth a dog park started long before he arrived on the scene.
“People had looked into it a few years previously,” Dunne said, openly sharing credit for bringing the park to fruition with local businessman Ben Davis of Alarm Tech Services as well as Portsmouth Community Development Director Tracy Shearer.
Dunne said the idea for the dog park received plenty of support from Ward 1 residents back when he was campaigning. Dunne’s day job is teaching sociology at Shawnee State University. He said SSU students helped him circulate a widely signed petition to bring a dog park to Portsmouth in the course of his successful 2017 campaign.
“We received tremendous support,” Dunne said.
He added the decision was made to name the park after the lost K-9 officer once planners chose the currently vacant property next to the city police station. Dunne said the name choice seemed appropriate.
Dunne added he and Davis spent a lot of time researching dog parks, even traveling to look at a park in Columbus. In reality, Davis and his daughter took their research to the West Coast of the country.
Davis said he and his daughter were on an extended vacation together and made a stop in Beverly Hills to visit the then brand-new Beverly Hills dog park opened in 2016. Davis said local design firm owner Gina Chabot came up with the general design for the Portsmouth park. However, he wants to incorporate some of the ideas he picked up while in Beverly Hills. Davis talked about wider gates to ensure the park is handicap accessible and possibly screening some of the fencing around the park so it’s four-legged visitors are not distracted by what’s going on outside the park.
Totally incidentally, Portsmouth’s park won’t be copying the price tag of the Beverly Hills facility which reached about $1 million, made possible in part by donations from Tina Sinatra, daughter of Frank Sinatra.
Under Chabot’s design, the park will essentially be split in two. One side will be for larger dogs 35 pounds and up, while the other side obviously will cater to smaller animals. Davis said he got involved with trying to bring a dog park to Portsmouth approximately eight or nine years ago.
“Everyone seemed to have an interest in it from the start,” he said. “But how do you make it happen?”
Davis didn’t say so, but the ultimate answer seems clearly to have included the involvement of Dunne and Shearer. The latter did not return a phone call requesting comment.
While both Davis and Dunne talk about the park having plenty of support, including from the entire city council, Davis was careful to point out the park will have closed-circuit security cameras keeping an eye on the place. He said he wanted to squelch concerns the park was going to become a hang-out for drug users and potentially a place for persons to simply drop off their dogs.
One reason for Davis’ involvement and interest in the dog park, was his hope to find a place to take his own dog, a red-haired dachshund by the name of Bailey. Unfortunately, Bailey passed away at the age of 17 last February.
“He lived a good long life, I have to say that,” Davis said.
Davis added he so far has not tried to replace Bailey but stated he may do so when the Portsmouth dog park finally opens its gates.