Apr 25, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterRiverton's Parks and Trails Master Plan Committee made a pitch Tuesday to the Fremont County School District 25 school board for the creation of a dog park at Tonkin Stadium.
The committee was formed in January by the city to work as a planning group for the improvement of the city's parks and trails. Aside from other duties, the committee is expected to develop ideas, raise funds, seek community input, coordinate work and oversee construction of projects.
Committee members are Craig Blumenshine, Mike Martin, Matt Wright, George Wright, Tara Carr and Kyle Nicholoff, with Jonathan Faubion as the city council liaison.
Blumenshine gave school board members a general vision before beginning any planning of Riverton's first dog park, outlining the benefits and choices the district would have.
"We want to ask if you think it's a good enough idea to proceed forward with a significant planning process," he said. "(And) to turn around here in a few months maybe and give you a very formal proposal."
Blumenshine, who is a part-time Ranger sports writer and local business owner, said the committee as well as community members favored Tonkin Stadium as the location for a dog park. Dog parks allow dogs to run free without a leash and provide an open environment for socializing for both pets and their owners, he said.
Kathy Hooper and Rayne Faubion, who also sit on the Paws for Life Animal League, which operates Riverton's Animal Adoption Center, said they have been working on the dog park idea for more than three years and were now offering their support and assistance in designing a "valuable asset" to the community.
Mayor Ron Warpness vouched his support in a letter and said the dog park idea could keep the area "in use and alive" in Riverton.
Brett Watson with the Riverton Junior Football League gave his support and agreed the park could become a new popular hub for Riverton pet owners. RJFL had been mentioned as a possible user of the stadium but plans to remain at its facility on Major Avenue.
Other support was received from Brandi Waheed, Barbara Gose and Jane Wright.
Tonkin Stadium, which has an adjacent practice field to the north, was built in the 1930s as a Depression-era public works project and was the home of Riverton High School football for more than 70 years before RHS moved the program to the current Wolverine Field at Riverton High School in west Riverton two years ago.
As for maintenance and liability, Blumenshine said the committee has asked the school district and city to figure out what they would charge a group to maintain the park so that ideas to raise money could be developed. The sale of dog tags could help raise funds for maintenance, he said, and the area could be sold, leased or create a joint opportunity between two parties.
He also recommended that if the school board liked the idea, a member could join the committee as a liaison to help develop the dog park.
Some items already working in favor of a dog park at Tonkin Stadium, Blumenshine said, are the fence at the location that is already place, a large parking area, and ample green space.
The committee would have to look into dual gated entries and exits, watering stations, and waste stations.
Board members gave superintendent Terry Snyder a positive consensus after he said the committee could engage in planning and a formal proposal if the board was open to the dog park idea.
"There are definitely a lot of questions to be pursued," Snyder said, adding that the property now is being used as a "city green space."
"It's kind of amazing how many people use that field area," Snyder said. "We have, from what I call college kids to using it for football, soccer, to little kids using it to sled."
Snyder said those groups of users would be affected.
"We know it has a lot of history behind it, and we want to be respectful of that property," he said. "But there is a cost to us to maintain that every year."
He also reminded the board that the district has discussed the adjacent old school building possibly functioning as an alternative school or also placing four to five tennis courts in the outside field for the high school athletes.
"An organized, well-run dog park is probably something this community needs," board member Mark Stone said.
Lander has a dog park.
Board member Carl Manning said the field was not being used to its full potential, and the dog park could become a community effort. Other board members agreed it could be a feasible option. Blumenshine added that Riverton could have its first dog park as soon as the end of this summer if the community showed interest and support.
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