Dogs may soon be allowed in Canton rec park

By DeeAnna Haney | Apr 25, 2014
Photo by: DeeAnna Haney Amy Savage walks her dog, Buck, on the end of the Canton river trail where dogs are allowed.

CANTON — Leashed dogs will soon be allowed in the Canton Recreation Park following a recent decision by the board of aldermen to change a longtime ordinance.

The vote overturns an ordinance from 1993 that prohibited pets from the recreation park. Dogs were allowed beyond the bridge and past the football stadium, but nowhere inside the park area or on the river trail before the bridge.

Before he even ran for and was elected alderman, Zeb Smathers said many people had expressed concern about the dog ordinance.

"This was a 'pet' issue of mine, no pun intended," Smathers said with a laugh. "Many people had brought to my attention that there was a sort of issue at the rec park that basically allowed dogs on part of the trail but people couldn't walk dogs on another."

Despite the ordinance, many who were either unaware of the rule or simply did not care walked their dogs at the park anyway. For others, the rule forced them to walk their dogs elsewhere.

Though there are signs on the trail that read "Absolutely no dogs on river trail," the rule has not been heavily enforced over the years.

Amy Savage, who lives about a mile away from the rec park, regularly brings her Australian cattle dog, Buck, to walk the mile-and-a-half trail. She said she was unaware of any rules prohibiting dogs from any section of the park, but she's glad to hear the board is relaxing the rule for dog owners.

"It's a nice place to walk and it's pretty," she said.

In an effort to encourage use of the recreation park, Smathers brought the issue to the recreation committee, of which he is an ex officio member for the board of aldermen. After the recreation committee voted in favor of changing the ordinance to allow dogs in the park, he brought it to the board of aldermen for approval during the April 10 meeting.

"I wanted to address the issue early in the spring to update the ordinance to go ahead and allow people to walk their dogs on the river trail," Smathers said.

The board voted unanimously in favor of changing the ordinance to now allow dogs in the park and on the entire river trail.

The aldermen agreed pet owners need to be responsible and pick up after their dogs. After brief discussion, the board settled on issuing a $25 citation to pet owners who are caught leaving dog waste at the park.

The board agreed to look into purchasing animal waste disposal stations when it comes time to draft the budget. There was also talk of getting community sponsorships for the waste disposal stations, much like the benches and other memorials already in the park.

"I think it brings us in line with other cities by having this ordinance. It's a small thing, but meaningful for some and I just hope people use it more," Smathers said.

The board will review a draft of the revised ordinance for approval at the next meeting Thursday, April 24.

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