Lancaster Unleashed, a group of Lancaster dog owners whose plan to build a dog park in the eastern suburbs has gained momentum, has found an ally in newly elected County Legislator John Bruso.
"They're a unique group whose members have done an awful lot of prep work already," Bruso said. "I have toured Como Lake Park looking for possible locations. I'm trying to help them get the ball rolling."
The group formed in June 2015 when two founding members Jaclyn McKewan and Debra Benedick addressed the Lancaster Town Board during the public comment portion of a meeting.
The off-leashed romp afforded dogs at an open-air park is beneficial in terms of weight control, longevity and temperament, the group maintained. It also cuts down on unwanted canine traits like separation angst, relentless barking and the gnawing of shoes and furniture.
McKewan, now president, and Benedick, treasurer, outlined their ideas for a dog park at the meeting. Five months later, the group formed a non-profit organization to run the operation.
"Little by little we started picking up people," said Benedick. "We finally started doing some fundraising. We organized Patriot Paws Parade for a short walk through the midway of the Village of Lancaster's Fourth of July event. We also started "Woof 'n' Treat" Halloween costume pet parade.
So far, the group has raised $9,000, said Mary C. St. Mary, vice-president. The next fundraiser, Zumbathon, will be April 27 at Fit Happenz, 485 Cayuga Road #9 in Cheektowaga, said McKewan.
"So far we're to the point that people are starting to become aware of us," said St. Mary. "There is no dog park in the eastern suburbs. It's a 20-minute ride to Knox Farm in East Aurora. We really have our heart set on the Como Lake Park. We thought about the park island, but that's been designated as a disc golf course."
In November 2017 the group presented the project to Daniel Rizzo, Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Forestry and Bruso, Chairman of Energy and Environment.
Two county parks currently have dog parks: Ellicott Creek Island Park in Tonawanda and Black Rock Dog Park at the foot Ontario Street in Buffalo.
While the county is willing to listen to plans for Lancaster Unleashed dog park, there are no firm plans for its creation or location until the master plan for the entire county parks system is revised, said Rizzo. That process is drawing to a close and a final report is due sometime between spring and summer, Rizzo said on Monday.
"At no time did we commit to a dog park," said Rizzo. "Currently under consideration is allowing more green space in Como Lake Park. We've conferred with a consultant. We've discussed areas of the park, but we have not identified any specific area for a dog park."
Erie County has engaged the services of Wendel, an engineering and landscape architecture firm, and GreenPlay, a park and recreation consulting firm, to help update the Erie County Parks Master Plan. The last time it was revised was 2003.
A proposal created for presentation to county legislators by Unleashed Lancaster listed rough cost estimates as: $2,000 for benches, $200 for signage, $12,000 for 1,900 linear feet of six-foot black vinyl chain link fencing, $450 for six adult trees, $360 fence-mounted permanent bag dispensers for dog waste.
"One additional cost came out of that meeting," St. Mary noted. "Lancaster Unleashed will be responsible for liability insurance. We requested that Erie County provide ongoing lawn maintenance."
"The Friends of Ellicott Creek Park Dog Park have done a fantastic job maintaining the island," Rizzo said. "Here, dogs have the run of the area."
In Black Rock the dog park consists of two fenced in areas about 75 x 75 ft. to separate the larger and smaller dogs.
"Actually the dog parks have worked out well," said Rizzo. "Is Como Park the better suited place? I don't know."
Area Dog Parks
Barkyard at LaSalle Park, DAR Drive, Buffalo. 14202
Bark Park at Black Rock Canal Park, 16 Black Rock Harbor, Buffalo, 14207
Bark Park at Ellicott Creek Island, Creekside Drive, Tonawanda, 14150
Knox Farm Dog Park, 437 Buffalo Road, East Aurora, 14052
Lewiston Dog Park, Portage Road, Lewiston, 14092
The Paw Park, 550 Smith Road, Amherst 14051
Rootie's Run, 2900 Lakeview Road, Hamburg, 14075