Battle Creek

Urbandale resident starts drive to get Dog Park for Battle Creek

The supporters of a proposed Dog Park in Calhoun County are hoping individuals and organizations in the community will throw them a financial bone to make the park a reality.

More than $4,000 of an estimated $40,000 has been raised for the dog-centric space that would be located in Bailey Park, says Roger Ballard, an Urbandale resident who has taken the leash on the project. Since moving to Battle Creek from St. Joseph 11 years ago to be with his partner who became his husband three years ago, Ballard, who works for PNC Bank, has immersed himself in various community projects.

The dog park is his latest effort. He surveyed about 30 neighborhood residents, 99 percent of whom responded positively to the idea of a dog park. Following that, he began talking with Neighborhood Planning Councils.

“I came up with the idea two years ago,” Ballard says. “My husband and I live adjacent to Fell Park which is a huge park that would be ideal if it was fenced for a dog park. We have two dachshunds and we take them there. That’s where we started with the idea.”

However, an analysis conducted by the City of Battle Creek’s Parks Department determined that Bailey Park would be the best site for the dog park. Duska Brumm, director of the Parks Department, says she and members of the Department of Public Works Department used a Dog Park Site Selection Scoring Sheet to make that determination.

The size of the parcel of land required and accessible water sources are among the criteria taken into consideration in that site selection scoring sheet.

“We have a section of land at Bailey Park that scored high, so we spoke with (Assistant City Manager) Ted Dearing and he talked with commissioners and no one was opposed to it,” Brumm says. “We went back to the (dog park) group and told them that it looked like a good fit. The next step is for them to come back to us with a design and funding for the park.”

Ballard and other supporters have been meeting regularly since March, 2017, and hope to have the dog park open and operational sometime this summer.

“The $40,000 will provide for fencing to go around dog park. It will also provide cement areas to wash dogs off and inner gates and water connection to the park so we can have water in the park,” Ballard says.  “The fenced-in area will be 100 feet by 300 feet with a barrier fence for large dogs on one side and smaller dogs on the other.”

Jim Haadsma, newly-elected 62nd District State House Representative, made a financial pledge to the dog park because he says dog parks add to a community’s quality of life. While walking door-to-door during his various campaigns for elected office, Haadsma says he would frequently see dogs looking out the windows of homes.

“It’s great from the perspective of getting community members socializing with each other and dogs socializing with each other,” Haadsma says.  “This gets dogs out of small, contained yards and interacting with other dogs without being on leashes.”

Dan Emerson, of, says proponents of dog parks say the benefits of the parks include giving dogs a place to exercise safely, thus reducing barking and other problem behaviors; providing seniors and disabled owners with an accessible place to exercise their companions; and providing an area for community-building socializing.

“Studies have shown that people find it easier to talk to each other with dogs as the initial focus, breaking down the usual social barriers that make people perceive others as strangers,” Emerson says. 

Haadsma, whose dog passed away last week, says having these parks are important to the quality of life in any community. He says people are more likely to move to a community that includes such amenities.

“It’s definitely a great service to the community, especially for people who may not have space to take dogs out to run,” Brumm says. “This is another service we could provide to the community. We were told that besides schools, people will also look for dog parks when they relocate.”  

To find out more about the Friends of Calhoun County Dog Park, please click here.
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Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.