Fenced-in areas of proposed Bluffton dog park fuels dispute

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comMay 3, 2014 

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After standing water doused plans for a dog park at the northern edge of Buckwalter Regional Park in March, the Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks' planning committee got to work designing a new one.

In April, the committee returned with a plan for a lot near Mill Street at the Buckwalter park's southern edge. It contained one major change -- it reduced the number of fenced-in areas from three to two.

Now, a former board member is trying to revise the plan before it is up for approval by Beaufort County and the town of Bluffton.

Abby Bird, a Bluffton-based dog trainer and former dog park board member, said a third fenced-in area would provide room for agility training, a game of fetch and other events. More important, it could accommodate territorial dogs that might cause problems in the other areas, she said.

"It's a no-brainer," she said. "The board thinks they know better than people who have a stake in the park. It greatly troubles me."

Bird was part of the previous board that decided to step down in August after its president, William Grooms, was charged with embezzling the dog park's funds. He committed suicide a few weeks before the new board was appointed. Bird said the previous board she was part of was an "abyss."

Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks president Cheryl Raugh said the current seven-member board did not make the decision to drop the third fenced-in area. Instead, it was decided by a 12-1 vote of the group's planning committee in early April, she said.

Raugh said the plans for the 2.5-acre site have enough room for territorial dogs.

"They decided the third area was most likely not going to get used," Raugh said. "If we're both standing on different ends of a football field, isn't there plenty of room for the both of us?"

However, Bird said the notion that no one would use the third area is the result of discussions at meetings with low turnout. She added that she had received responses from the community and a local behaviorist in support of a third area.

Raugh said a third area could be added in a later phase of the park's development, but the board was focused on getting the dog park plans approved. Raugh met with county and town officials to present the new plans, but there is no timetable for their approval.

Bird contends it is unlikely there will ever be a phase two.

"Once they've built the park, it's going to be turned over to (Beaufort County) Parks and Leisure Services," she said. "They're going to want to spend money (in) other ways."

Raugh said the organization has offered to let Bird set up a meeting before its next board meeting in this month so Bird and other supporters could voice their opinions on the third area.

Bird and Raugh said that meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 12 in the dining room of the Golden Corral on Fording Island Road.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

Related content:

Beaufort County nixes site for dog park in Bluffton, March 9, 2014

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