PAOLA — Thanks to the efforts of a 13-year-old girl, Paola soon may get a dog park at either Lake Miola or Wallace Park.

Annabelle Shaw, who will be heading to Paola High School as a freshman in the fall, has been checking out dog parks all across the country while traveling with her mother, Alexis, and brother, Gavin.

Her dream is to get an off-leash dog park built in Paola where she can take her Boston Terrier named Baxter to play with other dogs from the community.

Annabelle first presented the idea to Paola City Council members during their April 9 meeting. At that time, Annabelle was proposing the location to be the Paola Community Garden along Industrial Park Drive.

Council members and city officials seemed impressed with the idea, but the location wasn’t a good fit because the land in the city’s industrial park is planned to be used for industrial purposes once it can be successfully developed.

Instead, the council members invited the Shaw family to further discuss the proposal during a City Council work session Tuesday, June 4.

Annabelle couldn’t make the meeting because she was at camp, but she put together a poster board and slideshow of information that her mother, Alexis, presented to the council members and city officials at the meeting.

City Manager Jay Wieland and Public Works Director Kirk Rees assisted by talking about some of the different proposed locations for the dog park.

The primary site Annabelle proposed is along the southwest portion of Lake Miola, near the intersection of 299th Street and West Lake Miola Drive. There is an open tract of land near an existing Paola Pathways trailhead, along with a small parking lot nearby.

Wieland said one issue that may arise with that location is its close proximity to homes along Hedge Lane and West Lake Miola Drive. Wieland said dog parks are typically not placed too close to existing homes because the dogs can upset the pets of the existing homeowners.

Three other locations around the lake were also discussed as possible homes for the dog park. The first is near the stone arch north of Lions Park along the northwest portion of the lake; the second is near the low-water bridge along the northern edge of the lake; and the third is in a low depression area previously used as a fish nursery near the boat parking area along the southwest portion of the lake.

Pros and cons for each of the sites were discussed. Proximity to restrooms and number of shade trees offered were a few of the talking points.

Alexis said she was hopeful the chosen location would be visible to traffic, as she believes a dog park will attract people to the community if they see it.

Three locations at Wallace Park also were discussed as possible sites for the dog park.

The first is south of Ron’s Small Engine Repair west of the ballfields and near the intersection of South Silver Street and Wallace Park Drive; the second is east of the existing skate park and northwest of the Miami County Fairgrounds; and the third is just north of that, east of the old armory concrete pad.

The third site was the preferred option because it would not flood like the others.

No official decision was made on the location.

Alexis also talked to the officials about funding for the dog park. According to Annabelle’s research for her initial proposed site at Lake Miola, it would cost $11,500 just to install the pool panel fencing around the 1,541-square-foot perimeter of the proposed 128,878-square-foot site.

Annabelle got the idea for the pool panel fencing from a dog park in Bentonville, Ark.

Other proposed costs include a water fountain totaling $3,623.16 and 20 leash hooks totaling $79.90.

Annabelle’s plan is to get community members and businesses to sponsor the fence panels and then include sponsor names on a sign. Alexis said several people have already come forward willing to make donations for the park, but they don’t yet have a good setup for collecting funds.

She said it costs money to create a non-profit or to join the Miami County Community Foundation, and she asked the city officials if they could help.

City Manager Jay Wieland and City Clerk Dan Droste confirmed that the city could collect the revenue and keep it in a separate fund designated for the dog park. Donations to the city for public use are also tax deductible.

Wieland said keeping the fund underneath the city’s umbrella would also allow city officials to track the funds and give them control over how they are allocated.

The council members also have been discussing the need to put together a proposal to ask voters to renew the city’s half-cent sales tax in November, and their main focus has been park improvements, specifically the Paola Family Pool.

The tax previously has supported the pool, but when it was renewed in 2005, the funds were allocated to the construction and renovation of four city buildings — the police station, Paola Community Center, Paola City Hall and Paola Free Library.

If the tax is renewed in November for park improvements, the city could allocate some of that revenue for the dog park.

Wieland said the most successful projects are the ones that are community-driven, which is why he suggests taking a similar approach to the dog park as to what was done with the Paola Pathways trails group.

That includes creating a task force, collecting local donations from the community and seeking out grant funding.

“That model worked extremely well for us,” Wieland said.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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