There’s a new decision-making process for one of the most popular and controversial places in Holmes Beach — HB Scentral, the city dog park on the perimeter of the Birdie Tebbetts Field at Flotilla Drive and 62nd Street.
Acting upon Mayor Carmel Monti’s recommendation at the Dec. 5 parks and beautification committee meeting, Chair Melissa Snyder agreed her committee would begin looking at recommendations for a dog park master plan.
Snyder agreed the committee would take on the dog park issues on a two-month trial basis. If there’s not a proper fit, Monti said another direction will be considered.
The park was named HB Scentral by city commissioners in July on the recommendation of resident Barbara Parkman, one of several citizens on an ad hoc committee formed to manage and develop the park in April under then-Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
In first 10 days of his administration, Monti said dog park issues had taken a considerable amount of his time, with ad hoc members complaining about Parkman’s decisions and spending.
Parkman told the committee, Rex Hagen gave the funding, and “told me to go get estimates.” She said former public works superintendent Joe Duennes allowed her to choose the location of items she added to the park. “And frankly, I don’t think you can design by committee.”
Monti disagreed, saying the best plans are developed by a team.
The decisions relate to a $10,000 donation to the city in October by the Rex Hagen Family Foundation Inc.
The foundation letter requested $8,000 be allocated to the dog park and $2,000 to the parks and beautification committee, according to city clerk Stacey Johnston.
According to city officials, $7,104 has been spent on park signs, benches, a table and a decorative fountain at the dog park. While a dog fountain was initially sought, the one purchased and installed is purely decorative.
In addition to $2,395 spent on the fountain, the donation funded the following Parkman requests: $1,200 for tile; $988 for plumbing; $850 for electrical work; $323 for a bronze plaque; $720 for a wood sign and $628 for benches and a table, according to city staff.
Snyder and the committee will now work with Commissioner David Zaccagnino with a view toward future planning at the January and February meetings.
The agreement came after several committee members voiced concerns that dog park issues would overshadow the group’s broader mission.
P&B committee member Dennis Groh said he did not support the addition of the dog park if its many issues take an inordinate amount of time in comparison with other city beautification projects.
“This is just an issue outside of our scope,” said member Marilyn Shirley. “The dog people are a separate entity, and they have their own voices, their own leadership.”
Dog park user Liz Carlson, a resident of Westbay Point & Moorings condominiums adjacent to the park, suggested the mayor appoint a separate dog park committee, with a liaison to the parks committee.
Monti said he’d considered it, but it also would take time to appoint members and familiarize them with the laws and practices of a city committee.
He said he favored the existing park committee’s history and leadership.
Also discussed were possible plans for an area for small dogs, which according to Monti, are on hold.
“But come up with a plan that you agree with that has benches or doesn’t have benches, that has plants or doesn’t have plants,” said Monti. Then, he said, it would be up to him, public works and volunteers to implement it within budget restraints.
After the meeting, Parkman and two other dog park users in attendance, Carlson and Cathy Weber, said they were happy with the new direction.
The dog park was sectioned off from the outfield of Birdie Tebbetts Field — a baseball park — in April after commissioners decided to spend about $8,300 to separate the dogs and the ball park with a fence across the outfield. Dog owners had previously used the field to exercise their dogs when ball players were not active.
While there was no organized team assigned to use the field, some parents and their youths used the field for practice, which sometimes caused problems for dog park users.
Zaccagnino first proposed the fenced dog park to the commission, saying he had liability concerns with the shared arrangement.
Since its formation, the city added a shelter to the dog park area, which during the summer saw softball players competing, and hitting homeruns to the dog park and the shelter roof.
Another controversy swelled over plants commonly accepted as toxic to animals that Parkman chose and had installed in the dog park.
Parkman again said Dec. 5 hollies were low in toxicity. She also reported that vandals recently destroyed some potted plants at the park.
The next parks and committee meeting is set for 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 2, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.