After two groups set their sights on space in the old Wheelock Park campground – one looking to build a dog park and the other looking to create a new disc golf course – Keene crosses a new step towards a solution that could integrate the two ideas.
The city council’s municipal services, facilities and infrastructure committee voted on Tuesday to use the city’s capital improvement program funds to develop a plan that addresses both proposals. Parks, Recreation and Facilities Manager Andy Bohannon, who worked with the two groups to determine if the campground is a good fit for their plans, asked the committee to recommend that City Manager Elizabeth Dragon be allowed to spend those funds, which he said were free to be reallocated.
“I anticipate that we will have a public input process, both groups are going to be heavily involved in this design,” Bohannon said of the plan. “And that’s really the best way to move forward with these two groups, and the city is going to have a win-win.”
Bohannon said in a note to the committee, included in the agenda package for Tuesday’s meeting the money could be used to hire a landscaping consultant. He said this would help better understand the combined needs of the city and groups wishing to use the campground space, and give stakeholders an idea of the cost of the projects.
The push for a dog park in Keene is not new, and the initiative has been going on for years, led by different people at different times. Last month, Rebecca Lancaster, a member of the Keene board of directors who currently runs the dog park project, told the MSFI committee that a petition supporting the project had garnered more than 600 signatures.
The Park Avenue location is ideal for a dog park, she said, as it is close to Wheelock Park amenities such as restrooms and parking, but far enough from the nearest house to avoid any problems for property owners in proximity, which has been a concern in previous conversations about a dog park in other locations.
“The advantages of having a dog park are that there really aren’t any others locally in nearby or adjacent towns,” Lancaster told the committee. “In fact, I was surprised, when I moved here, that there isn’t an established dog park in a town of this size. It is therefore a safe space for community members to exercise and socialize their dogs. It’s a great convenience … something else Keene could offer to attract families and young professionals and others to the area.
Meanwhile, Robert Johnson of the Keene Disc Golf Club said last month that the goal of their project was to build a course that would be a bit more accessible than the more advanced course the club operates at Otter Brook. He said a disc golf course would be a great fit for other park activities and that the group would take care of any ongoing maintenance required at the facility, as it does at Otter Brook State Park.
Otter Brook’s course has performed well, Johnson said, attracting players from all over New England. But he said it’s not always suitable for young players or those just learning the game.
“As successful as Otter Brook has been, one thing that is not suitable for beginners,” Johnson said. “The lack of off-season access, elevation changes and sometimes the rugged topography can be overwhelming for new players, and that’s where Wheelock comes in.”
In addition to helping establish the feasibility of both the dog park and the disc golf course, Bohannon said the concept plan would also give the city a roadmap for using the space for generations. future.
Councilor Bobby Williams suggested that if the dog park was not functioning in the old campground, a fenced area near the Robin Hood Park Amphitheater might also be a suitable location. He said it wouldn’t take a lot of work to create a small dog park there.
At last month’s meeting, Lancaster told councilors she would be willing to come up with a plan to share space with space with the disc golf course. On Tuesday, councilor Randy Filiault asked Bohannon if this would be possible.
“There’s a good chance that will happen,” Bohannon told the committee. “There’s also another chance it won’t. But we’ll find out.”
The committee’s recommendation will then go to the full board for further consideration.