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Farmington Hills Dog Park Saga Has Happy Ending

Officials approve a lease agreement to create the park on the former William Grace Elementary School property.

After years of waiting, Farmington Hills dog owners will soon have a park to call their own. 

City officials on Monday unanimously approved a lease agreement with  (FPS) for use of the former William Grace Elementary School property, at 29040 Shiawassee. School officials approved the agreement March 6. 

The city will pay $1 per year for the lease, Whinnery said, and any improvements will be modest.

"We're going to keep that investment at a reasonable cost, in case we have to pack up and move it," he said.

would leave in place a playground that was left standing after William Grace Elementary was demolished last summer, along with three other FPS buildings. 

Assistant city attorney Dana Whinnery said while residents have long wanted a dog park, "the issues have always been location ... and, actually, cost."

The demand led officials in 2010 to consider creating a dog park on the east side of  in . Dog owners said the 1-acre space was too small, and city officials countered they could not afford to purchase a larger property. Council members challenged residents in January of last year to work together on solutions.

The topic heated up again after city officials proposed leasing the William Grace property. In a Jan. 16 memo to FPS board members, assistant superintendent Dave Ruhland said the district had "good reason" to make the property available, as officials await the results of a facilities study that will help determine whether the property will be needed.

"While providing a resource for the community, even if on a temporary basis, the District would be relieved of the responsibility for maintaining the property as well as insuring the property," he wrote. 

The park is expected to be ready for use in late spring. In the meantime, Paws for the Hills volunteers are in the at , and anyone interested in helping to organize and raise funds for the dog park is welcome to attend. 

Nancy Hand March 27, 2012 at 01:05 PM
I'm thrilled about this. My only wish is that, in the case the dog park will have to be moved, that a more central Farmington Hills location be found. With that only thought for the future, those responsible for getting this going are to be commended!
Beth Montalvo March 27, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I am concerned that there still seems to be no commitment for allowing Farmington dog owners to participate. I have lived in Farmington for 17 years. My property taxes have helped to support this property owned by FPS for that length of time.
norma weems March 27, 2012 at 02:59 PM
So glad to hear of a good use for the property. I will enjoy watching the dogs and hopefully will be able to bring my own there.
Tanya March 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I'm so looking forward to having to dodge dogs as I drive down Shiawassee... In my opinion this should be a open space so the kids in the neighborhood can play! There are no open fields in this area.
marilyn lennis March 30, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Tanya, The New Dog Park will be fenced off and separate from the rest of the school property. It is my understanding that the Playground will be available for children to play. Dog owners will keep their dogs on a leash until they are safely within the dog park. Marilyn
marilyn lennis March 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I hope the new dog park will have an inner gate with a buffer in between the outer gate. A source of water would be a great asset instead of hauling water for the dogs to drink. Northville has a great set-up with their dog park. In order to have access, the dog owner must show proof of vaccinations and participate in an hour long dog park education class. Then the owner purchases a electronic entry key which is good for one year and then you must renew. Non-residents pay a higher fee.
marilyn lennis March 30, 2012 at 09:23 PM
As noted in the article, Paws for the Hills volunteers are meeting on Thursday, 7:30 p.m., in the Nature Discovery Center at Heritage Park, meetings. This would be the time and place to voice your concern. If the new park it is similar to other city dog parks, non-residents pay a slightly higher annual fee.
Tricia June 05, 2012 at 01:40 PM
As an employed, single, childless, dog-owning taxpayer, I UNDERSTAND that families with children rarely cover all of their own costs for public education, sports and enrichment programs. I'd bet that the costs to "run" any dog park for a year are considerably cheaper than public programs for any one child in a public school for a year. And just like any park that attracts children and families, a well-run dog park is a positive for a community.
Tanya June 05, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Tricia, This grounds is/ was (now leased to city) owed by FPS- the reason for teardown of William Grace was to provide $$ back to the school system. Not lease it to the city for 2 years at $1. Your statement about us not covering our children's cost to the school system! If you had children, you would know how much $ parents do pay to send their children off to school! Public or private. And, how the cry about having no $ in FPS, all the cuts the empolyees took- to turn this into a dog park! I hope no one get hurt, when there is a dog fight! Dogs are protectors of their masters!
Tricia June 06, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Who said anything about not affording my dog? I said that it's an enrichment in a community that benefits, apparently, someone else but you. Good thing not everyone thinks like you do or we'd have nothing for the greater good.
Tricia June 06, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I'm betting that no one came forward with these alleged $$ to pay FPS for that land. Given the choice, I'm certain that they would've taken the money. And a dog park is a non-permanent solution, if someone is willing to pay for the land, they take down a fence. Regarding education, you must not have done much research before replying, I'm sure it feels as if you're paying your fair share, but between the shared public cost for public education and the tax breaks that parents receive for those same children, each parent doesn't cover much of the cost. I saw a stat recently that showed the cost of educating ONE child in Michigan for just 1st -7th grade was over $75,000. But most of us childless taxepayers understand that it's the cost of living in a someone organized and somewhat civilized society. Private education is different, those parents really pay. Re: the dog fights - really?? You want to take about being hurt? People are hurt by other peoples children every day. Look at the crime rate and read the paper and remember that those are someone's kids. Can't blame me though.
Tricia June 06, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Uhm...there's a fence, it's not a free-for-all. And except for the open field 4-blocks down the road at St. Alexanders, I suppose you're right about the emply field. In my experience, empty fields attract teenagers with bottles, packages and food wrappers. I know this, because I pick up bottles, packages and food wrappers from the park and open spaces in my area.
marilyn lennis June 06, 2012 at 05:03 PM
To Terrie: do you really think dogs should be "brought to the BBQ" ?Does this mean you are in favor of eating dog meat. Sounds morbid to me as I am not in favor of eating pets. You might not like dogs but don't let the Michigan Humane society catching you with Fido Kebabs!
marilyn lennis June 06, 2012 at 05:20 PM
To Terrie: it had nothing to do with making money for the school system, instead the schools were no longer needed and they were unable to repurpose the buildings or sell these properties. Eagle Elementary was sold but you might recall the new owners were not exactly welcomed by the adjacent neighbors. The idea was not to make money but to save money maintaining school buildings that were no longer needed. The land for Grace and Wooddale are still owned by the School Board. I have been following this story because as a child I went to Wooddale and was saddened when the school was torn down. But I do understand the reason for the end of Wooddale Elementary School. I have more for you Terrie, but my dog wants me to do stop wasting my time!
marilyn lennis June 06, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Tricia: I'll see you at the new dog park! There has been an overwhelming response to the required owners orientation meetings. I had to wait until mid- June to get in In reading the comments I have concluded: What many of the non-dog owners in Farmington and Farm. Hills don't seem to get is there is really no place to excercise a dog at least in my neighborhood. This is because we are not allowed to have fences & dogs must be on leash at all times in these cities. Sorry but my days of running are long gone. I take my dog to Canine Campus, doggy day care, at least once a week but that really is not enough. I walk my dog but again, that really is not enough exercise for my cute yet very active Australian Cattle Dog. So now with a local dog park, it will be far to excercise my dog. Farmington Hills is a great place to live because there is something for everyone. From babies to toddlers, after school programs, nature programs, nature center, hiking trails, cultural arts division with great programs, the best Senior Center around with transportation provided & Smart bus system for students & Seniors. And so much more! And now I see that Terrie (see previous comments) is having a BBQ for cows, chickens& dogs! Wow!
Bryce June 06, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I think Terry was one of those guys that used to sit up in the balcony on The Muppet Show. Gee Terry, can't understand that part of the reason people choose to live in Farmington Hills, and pay higher taxes than elsewhere, is because of the quality of life and services we enjoy.
marilyn lennis June 06, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Terry: I love my grown children & all my grandchildren. Has it ever occurred to you that many people have enough love for humans and animals. I'm starting to suspect that you think love is finite. Honestly the thought of eating someones pet or the child next door is right up there with Hanible Lecter and his grisly appetite. Now I'm starting to feel sorry for you. You do not see the abundance that is all around us. There are enough resources in our community for all to share in many ways. I'm done here!
Jim Sparks June 07, 2012 at 03:38 PM
That's why it's called a COMMUNITY. We all pitch in to make the overall atmosphere more pleasant to live in. Sounds like your one of those folks who objects to ANY tax money being spent on anything they don't use, like, or agree with. That's just not the way it works - never has been. I don't have kids in the school system, but I am glad to support the educational opportunities offered to my community. I am not a senior, but I believe it's right and fine that services are offered to them at low or no cost. So relax... the whole dollar or two of your taxes that might support a park for dogs and their owners isn't going to break you.
Jim Sparks June 07, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Terry - I may also one day own a dog. I don't use the city's parks much, either, but I don't begrudge their existence, nor that my taxes help keep them up. It's called "quality of life", and I for one am happy to contribute.
Bryce June 08, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Terry, "Better education for our children."? Farmington Hills currently spends 10,500.00 per student. If they can't provide a quality education at that price, they need new management.
Tanya June 08, 2012 at 05:10 PM
The gate is all put up and the maintence men have moved the lawn- all the debating really does not mean anything. The city has gone down hill and my children's education is falling short! I love my 3 dogs very much and 1 cat- I have a large yard that is fenced in to having my dogs. I am sorry that people are getting dogs that do not have the proper means to have a dog! There are parks all over this city that people walk their dogs, that is where you should go. Children doing b&e's and other crimes- the city should think about what do these children do after 6pm when the Costick Center/ John Grant closes? That property should have turned into a building to have a "hang-out" that is supervised with lots of activities; dances, basketball, etc.
Jim Sparks June 08, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Terry - "self-funding"? As in what, an admission fee? Who would administer that? Who would collect, account for and disburse such money? How would that be enforced? I am amused by those who take the notion that EVERYTHING can and must "pay for itself" or make a monetary profit. They place absolutely NO value on anything intangible. It just doesn't work that way - never has, never will. "You get what you pay for" is probably the operative phrase here...there's no such thing as a free lunch. Why isn't Heritage Park, or Shiawassee Park "self-funding"? Because setting up turnstiles at every corner of the community is hardly appealing, nor practical. Again, I don't use our parks much at all, yet I'm fine with contributing to their purchase and upkeep as they are amenities available to the entire community, thereby making it a better place to live for everyone. You however, seem to want a Chinese menu approach, where you pick and choose only what YOU find worthy, and everyone else can take a flying leap. A little advice: Buy yourself an island with that massive nest egg you must have built up with your "superior" fiscal regimen...then you won't have to fret over giving even a little bit of it to anyone at all. And you could make up your own rules, like "NO DOGS ALLOWED!!!" I'm sure you'd think it's HEAVEN.
marilyn lennis June 12, 2012 at 05:08 PM
How much is the new William Grace Dog park going to cost our taxpayers? THE COST( from what I have gleaned from local newspapers: $1.00 lease per year $10,000 cost of the fence and gate system Is there really any new insurance costs for the city? The City of Farmington Hills has liability insurance for the vast park system, including Heritage Park, Woodland Hills Nature Park, the FH Golf Course, the Riley Skate Park, all of the Sports Parks and now the Dog Park. I would also think that Farmington Hills has lawyers on staff for consultation and to handle legal issues. THE FEES: The resident fee for the dogpark is $30 for the 1st dog and $10 for each additional dog. Talking to the Staff at the Costick Center, HUNDREDS have called to sign up for the orientation meeting. At this time, one knows how much in fees will be collected for the dog park, however, let's assume 300 residents pay the $30 annual fee for one dog. Of that 300, 75 residents pay an additional $10. for a second dog. The math: 300 x $30 = $9000 and 75 x $10 =750. $9000. + $750.= $9750 in fees for the 1st year. The fees would pay the $1 lease and almost all the fence/gate cost. So, to all the curmudgeons who keep complaining about the costs of this modest park...it appears the park will be self funded. GO FIND ANOTHER LOCAL ISSUE TO GRIPE ABOUT!
Soudian June 13, 2012 at 04:19 AM
I would like to see the dog park if (and only if) it is self funded. I would think that asking for donations or seeking sponsorship would be something that the city could do to help offset costs associated in the upkeep, insurance and other ongoing costs. Tax money is something that is best used for needed items and not on luxury items such as this. Dogs, Cats and other household pets also are something that if one can not afford should not be kept. Where are we going to draw the line will we be paying for cat parks, what about reptiles, fish and other pets... are we discriminating against those pet owners. Government can not continue to spend TAX PAYER money on needless things period. Dog owners should pony up the money needed to fund this project and on going expense.
marilyn lennis June 20, 2012 at 04:22 PM
I Went to the required orientation meeting on Monday night. What I learned: each dog owner is responsible for their own dogs behavior and must sign the City of Farmington Hills Waiver & Release for use of Dog Park. In short it releases The City of Farmington from lawsuits resulting activities in the dog park. It places the responsibility on the individual dog owners . Also, the park is very well planned with a large dog area & a small dog area. The entire park has fencing and the double gate allows dogs & owners to enter in a controlled manner. Each dog owner must show vaccine records & Rabies Certificate for each dog. (3 maximum per household). The annual Dog Park fees are $30 for the first dog & $10 for each additional dog. The rules & regulations are numerous to ensure the safety of people, dogs and to respect the neighbors around the park. Paws in the Hills is to be congratulated on a job well done! Thank you! Thank you ! Thank you for the countless hours that the volunteers of Paws in the Hills put in to make this a reality. Ribbon cutting is next Monday, June 25th.

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