What is a Dog Park?

A Dog Park is an exercise area for responsible dog owners to exercise their dog(s). Most dog parks are fenced allowing the dogs to be exercised off-leash, in a safe environment. Often Dog Parks are managed by the park users in partnership with city officials.

What is the FDPA?

The Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates is a grassroots group of city residents uniting to establish the first fenced-in, off-leash Dog Park in central Fitchburg, Wisconsin. In 2006, interest in a Dog Park was documented in the City’s comprehensive plan as a top priority. The public surveys conducted in 2009 and 2015 continued to show strong interest in a Dog Park in Fitchburg, WI.

In the summer of 2015, a call was put out in the local newspaper, emails were sent out and posts were made on Facebook as well as at public meetings about getting a group together to support a Dog Park in Fitchburg. There was a tremendously positive response and the group, the Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates (FDPA) has been growing steadily since then.

The group has met, and will continue to meet, several times, including meetings with city staff, parks staff, alders and the Mayor, to talk about a Dog Park and many of the details that pertain to a Dog Park, including a lot of research on existing facilities and what the residents want. FDPA have made presentations during a public meeting hosted by the Parks Department, to the Committee of the Whole and to the Parks Commission.

Over the course of organizing and talking with local residents, the FDPA has heard from countless dog owners in support of this effort. We’ve heard from non-dog owners who are in support of a Dog Park to relieve congestion on the other parks.

Who benefits from a Dog Park?

Dogs and dog owners benefit by having a place for their dogs to exercise and expend energy. In addition, a Dog Park is a great place to meet other Fitchburg residents. Non-dog owners also benefit. Dog parks relieve the pressure on other city parks by providing a specific place to exercise dogs safely. Plus, a well-exercised dog is less likely to become a barking nuisance in the neighborhood in which they live. With the increase in multi-family units, smaller lot sizes and developments prohibiting fences, the need for a place where dog owners and caretakers can safely exercise their dogs also increases.

Don’t we already have enough dog parks?

There are no dog parks in Fitchburg. Depending on where you live, the closest dog park is 20-35 minutes away. Over 10% of the Dane County Dog Park Permits issued in 2015 were to Fitchburg residents, and Fitchburg’s population is only 5% of Dane County – That’s twice the average of dog park users in the rest of the county.

How many dog owners are there in the city?

According to a 2012 US Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook report, 36.5% of American households own at least one dog. That calculates to nearly 10,000 dog owners in the City of Fitchburg. In 2015, 1,328 dog licenses were issued by the City of Fitchburg.

How much will this cost taxpayers?

In Fall 2015, Alder Patrick Stern introduced a CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) item allocating $50,000 toward establishing a dog park. However, Alder Jake Johnson is proposing to change the funding source for the city’s $50,000 contribution to the City’s Park Dedication Fund, which is a funded by developers. Developers, with the Park Commission’s approval, can pay a fee in lieu of providing the optimal acreage of parkland in their developments. Those fees are earmarked in the Park Dedication fund for the City to either buy new parkland where it wants to add a park or to improve a community park.

The Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates (FDPA), a group of Fitchburg resident volunteers, have agreed to raise funds privately for amenities like a kiosk, signage, benches, a picnic table, a bike rack, and tree plantings. So those costs would come from donations and fundraising efforts, not from taxpayer dollars. As a result, if Alder Johnson’s proposal goes through, there will be no cost at all to the taxpayers for the design or building of this dog park.

There will be some annual maintenance costs – a few mowings per year, restocking waste bags, snow removal, etc., but that cost is expected to be very small (a small fraction of a single staff person’s time).

Will the Dog Park affect the property values of nearby houses?

Parks increase livability of a community. The more parks a city has, the higher property values tend to be. The FDPA and city staff are striving to design a beautiful, natural space that willo enhance the surrounding area and preserve the natural surroundings and habitat there. Additionally, the benefit of a place for neighbors to gather helps community and makes our city more enjoyable and livable. Dog parks have become a sought-after amenity among people relocating to a community as cited in the “The Impact of Parks on Property Values” article (http://www.actrees.org/files/Research/parks_on_property_values.pdf).

How big will the Dog Park be?

The site has yet to be selected. Dog parks tend to be at least 10 acres, while dog exercise areas are anywhere from 1/2 acre to 6-7 acres. Based on input, Fitchburg residents want a nearby option for stopping by a couple times during the weekdays. Many current city parks are smaller than five acres and are great parks that are well utilized and appreciated. While a bigger Dog Park would be nice, central location and accessibility are bigger factors.

What about the noise?

Despite common misconception, dog parks are not loud places. If you haven’t been to a dog park, please visit one and take note of how little barking there actually is. Well-exercised dogs are much quieter and better behaved than dogs who don’t get exercise. It is also worth remembering that sound levels decline based on the distance from the source.

Noise Source Level1 Decibel Effect
Rock concert 140 dB Pain begins
Power mower 110 dB Sustained exposure may cause hearing loss
Blender 100 dB Sustained exposure may cause hearing loss
Motorcycle 105 dB Sustained exposure may cause hearing loss
Vacuum cleaner 80 dB Conversational speech level
Barking dog 75 dB Conversational speech level
Street traffic 70 dB Conversational speech level
Birds at 10’ 55 dB Threshold for hearing level

1 NetWell

Noise studies at dog parks have found the noise level to be minimal. Most dogs do not bark while in a dog park as they are too busy running and playing.

In addition, the design for Fitchburg’s dog park will make use of landscaping buffers (trees and berms) which will not only provide shade and make for a prettier park, but also provide a sound barrier as added insurance. Also, by city ordinance (Sec. 54-23), the hours the park would be likely be open would be limited to 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

What about the smell?

Dog Park users tend to be responsible and value the parks they use. They want the area to be clean and will pick up after their dogs. Waste stations and waste bags will be available for users. In addition, volunteers will conduct periodic clean-ups. Crushed limestone will be used for the paths in the dog park because it requires less maintenance and doesn’t retain odors. Again, if you haven’t been to a dog park, please visit one.

How were the sites under consideration for a Dog Park selected?

The City of Fitchburg staff, including various departments, provided nine sites for consideration. These sites were then evaluated and ranked by Fitchburg residents and dog park users. See Criteria below.

What criteria were used to evaluate the sites?

Each site was evaluated using the following, equally weighted, criteria:

  • Size
  • Land features –flat, meadow, standing water, etc
  • Land condition – site preparation needed for a dog park
  • Parking – availability of and whether on or off street
  • Proximity to Fitchburg’s center – population center, not geographic
  • Ease of getting to and in
  • Year round usability – any drainage issues
  • Shaded areas – presence of trees
  • Beauty
  • Neighborhood – surrounded by houses
  • Safety – for people and dogs
  • Long term externalities – chance of having to relocate, city plans for site use

How will the public be informed?

There have been several articles in The Star, including one in the summer of 2015 inviting interested residents to join the Fitchburg Dog Park Advocates. Meeting notices and updates have been shared via city meeting public notices (posted online and at City Hall) as well as announced on the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FitchburgDPA), via email and on Nextdoor.

In April 2016, the City had a heavily publicized public meeting to discuss the site locations under consideration. This meeting was extremely well attended, and the support for a dog park was overwhelming. Also in April, the FDPA gave a presentation to the Committee of the Whole (City Council members plus Mayor and City Administrator) where the potential sites, evaluation criteria and dog park amenities were discussed.

In May, the FDPA gave the same presentation to the Parks Commission.

After the top sites have been further evaluated, the City will have a meeting with the respective neighborhood residents of the top site(s).

In August, the Parks Commission is expected to make a site recommendation to the Council.

Before the Council makes a decision, the City will hold a Public Hearing on the recommended site.

How can I stay informed about updates and progress?

Follow FDPA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FitchburgDPA, or email FDPA at FitchburgDogParkAdvocates@gmail.com and request to be added to the email list.

How can I help?

I have another question not answered here, who do I ask?

Email FDPA at FitchburgDogParkAdvocates@gmail.com with any questions.


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