Fort Smith residents rallied together at the city town hall meeting Thursday night to express the need for a new dog park.
The city's largest dog park closed Tuesday, and about 20 Fort Smith residents attended the town hall meeting to show their support .
“Needless to say the dogs love the park," said Jacky Fleming, who spoke in favor of the park. "They get to socialize with other dogs, run free, hunt, swim, make new friends with both dogs and people. Personally, I can’t even count the number of friends I’ve made both human and dog. We have become a large and welcoming community — all ages, all abilities, all cultures bound together by our love for animals.”
Fleming described the park as a haven for both humans and dogs.
“For many especially over the last two years it was the one safe place to go," Fleming said.
She requested the city reserve five to 10 acres of land with fencing and a water station for the dog park.
While Fleming noted that the city has two existing dog parks, she said those are not large enough to handle the number of dogs that used the now-closed dog park.
“It’s time to take a big step forward and make this a priority. Time is of the essence and please don’t let this simmer on the back burner," Fleming said.
Many people would be willing to volunteer to help build a new park, participate in grant writing or help in any way they can, Fleming said.
City Administrator Carl Geffken said that the city is working with the county to try to find a location . They are considering locations in Chaffee Crossing and Ben Geren Regional Park.
Geffken said officials are looking at potentially having a park that is larger than five acres.
“This is not a backburner item," Geffken said.
The board of directors voiced their support as well.
“The commitment is there," Director Neal Martin said.
Director Kevin Settle suggested that people who want to see another dog park created contact the county judge and justices of the peace to gain their support as well.
Debby Shaw also spoke in favor of the dog park, and she reminded the board that the people who want a dog park are also voters who the directors are asking to approve sales taxes in the coming year.
“This is the faces of the people you’re asking," Shaw said.
She also pointed out that dog parks are available in nearby cities.
“Let’s be progressive. Let’s be proactive. Let’s not let Fayetteville and northwest Arkansas get everything," Shaw said.
Shaw wanted the board to take the matter seriously and act swiftly to build a new park.
“I want the fire to be under your feet," Shaw said.
Mayor George McGill assured the people that the dog park is an important issue to him.
“Bottom line we’re going to get this done for you. We have heard your voices," McGill said.
Alex Gladden is a University of Arkansas graduate. She previously reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining the Times Record. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Fort Smith residents voice need for dog park