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No easy fit, park for dogs to run free looks like it soon may become reality

Amherst dog lovers may soon have a place for Rover to run.

After several failed attempts, the Amherst Paw Park Association now plans to put a dog park in an East Amherst municipal complex. The "off-leash canine exercise and training facility" would be located near the northeast end of Millersport Highway at 550 Smith Road.

The Town Board recently approved a resolution, sponsored by Council Member William L. Kindel, to have the town and the Amherst Paw Park Association work together to make an off-leash dog park a reality.

"We're looking at developing about one acre," said Williamsville resident Mike Rogers, co-chairman of the association and owner of a Great Dane named Winslow. "What our plan is, is to have one area for large dogs and a small area fenced in for the smaller dogs."

Unlike regular town parks, a dog park would allow dog owners to let their pets run free in a fenced-in area.

The City of Buffalo converted part of LaSalle Park into a 1.3-acre dog park in August. Because of its overwhelming popularity, city officials announced last month that the dog park would be permanent.

The association has tried to establish a dog park for years but has struggled to develop other locations.

The group's last attempt, to put a dog park in Paradise Park at Paradise and Casey roads, ran into trouble after it was discovered that the property included wetlands that would take more than $100,000 to clear and drain.

That was just too much money for a dog-loving volunteer group to raise, Rogers said.

The Smith Road location is not as attractive as a park setting, Rogers said, but it is much more practical. The dog park would be located on unused land near the town's composting and record-storage facilities.

Rogers estimated that it will cost $26,000 to get the dog park running because there are no wetlands or drainage issues to be addressed.

The $26,000, which still needs to be raised, would go toward fencing, gates, signs and water access. Once that is done, Rogers said, the association hopes to continue raising money for other amenities.

He said he hopes to have the dog park open by next summer.

The group is still looking for donors and volunteers willing to help with fundraising and grant-writing efforts, Rogers said.

While the town is willing to allow the association to use town parkland to build an off-leash area, Rogers said, construction and maintenance of the dog park would be the association's responsibility.

Kindel, who owns two dogs, said he thinks the town might be able to pick up some of the construction costs.

By limiting park use to licensed dogs, the town can use the park to encourage more residents to obtain such licenses, Kindel said. The dog park would also help protect users of other town parks who should not have to deal with the hazards and fears associated with dogs running loose.

"The relationship between man and dog is so close," Kindel said. "They're part of the family. So we're going to bring part of the family out of the closet and give them a place of their own."

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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