GALLOWAY – When Four Seasons resident Ben Galiardo went to the Township Council meeting Nov. 22 to see what the governing body thought about creating a dog park, he was greeted with a positive response – especially from kindred spirit Councilman Tim Meadows.
Meadows, owner of a Chihuahua and a toy poodle, said he thought it was a great idea but one with many facets. Mayor Don Purdy quickly appointed Meadows as chairman of a dog park committee, along with fellow animal lovers Councilman Rich Clute and Councilman Tony DiPietro.
“What I told Ben, Rich and Tony was that I would do research on it and look at the overall concept of it because when we do have a meeting about it, I want to bring five actionable things to the table,” Meadows said during a coffee shop stop with his pooches.
Galiardo, 75, said he got the idea for starting a dog park after receiving a letter from his Four Seasons Homeowners Association asking if people would be interested in getting together with their dogs.
He was the perfect person to reach, he said, since he and other members of the Board of Commissioners at his part- time residence in Pennsylvania created a dog park with the approval of the community that was completed last month.
Galiardo told the homeowners association about the complexities of creating a dog park, the maintenance and the costs. He said that is why he reached out to council members to gauge their interest.
“I said, ‘Take this upon yourselves.’ This is a really big endeavor, and at least see if the township would like to buy into it, and it is a matter of how they would do it,” Galiardo said in a phone interview Wednesday, Nov. 23.
“The people of Galloway have to get behind this and let the councilmen know that this is something that they want,” Galiardo said.
While creation of a dog park can sometimes result in a "not in my backyard" reaction from people living nearby, Galloway is hoping to avoid that by considering an area near Patriot Lake at the Municipal Complex, 300 Jimmie Leeds Road.
Meadows said he and the committee have to look into the cost. While they have the land, maintenance, fencing and amenities such as play toys and agility courses could add to the cost. The township is looking to enlist corporate sponsors such as Nutrena and PetSmart.
“My dogs like to stretch their legs. I always see people walking their dogs over there and I think it is an interest by many people, but people need to rally around the idea,” Meadows said.
Meadows said that while he is crazy about his dogs, he and city officials realize that not everyone is like-minded.
“At this point we are just getting some information, finding out what the costs will be and what we can eliminate," he said. “I don’t want this to cost the taxpayers anything. Taxpayers shouldn’t bear the burden – and I think we have enough generosity in the community to make it happen.”
He said there is an economic incentive to doing the project, because a dog park would bring people downtown.
“It would help to grow the downtown. You might want to go to the Dunkin' Donuts or go have lunch,” he said.
Communities including Wildwood and Ocean City in Cape May County have created dog parks, and one is under construction in Egg Harbor Township.
Regulations including well as other guidelines that on the surface may seem obvious, must be followed to run a successful dog park.
Galiardo emphasized that guidelines would have to be set, such as requiring proof of vaccinations, cleaning up after pooches and proper disposal of waste.
“When they go to the park the owner can’t leave,” Galiardo said. “It isn’t a babysitting thing. There are some rules.”
Meadows said he plans to present some ideas to the dog park committee sometime this month. He also would like community input.
“This is doable,” Meadows said. “This isn’t something that is a passing fancy.”
Email Madelaine Vitale at firstname.lastname@example.org.