Traverse City News and Events

Dog Park, Gardens Planned For Civic Center

By Beth Milligan | July 13, 2018

On the heels of the renovation of Easling Pool, a new community playground, an expanded Norte cycling clubhouse, and a partnership with Parallel 45 to launch an outdoor summer play repertory, two more improvement projects are planned for the Grand Traverse County Civic Center – including the creation of Traverse City’s first east-side dog park.

The county’s Parks and Recreation department is pursuing a $25,000 grant from PetSafe to build a one-acre dog park on the northeast side of the Civic Center adjacent to the skate park. The dog park would offer two sides – “one for small pups and one for large dogs, each with a watering station and some doggy playground equipment,” staff wrote in the grant proposal. “The area is surrounded by trees to offer shade to dogs and their owners, with a planned entrance to the park from the jogging-walking path.”

Staff noted the dog park “will be located within a short walking distance of the Norte Youth Cycling Group’s Wheelhouse, the outdoor concession stand, and the skate park, but not so close as to create conflict among users or jeopardize the safety of the dogs. The wonderful thing about the Civic Center park is that it is large enough to accommodate all types of recreation without border issues.”

Parks and Recreation Director Kristine Erickson tells The Ticker department staff and commissioners have discussed creating a dog park at the Civic Center for several years. Nearly 5,000 dog licenses were sold in Grand Traverse County in 2017, but only two off-leash dog parks exist in the county – Wags West dog park on the corner of Bay and Division streets in Traverse City, and the Silver Lake Recreation Area dog park in Garfield Township. Both parks serve the west side of the city, leaving a gap for east-side residents that could be filled with a Civic Center dog park. Staff noted in the grant proposal that while dogs are required to be leashed at all times at the Civic Center, the park has had challenges with owners allowing “their pets to run free on one of the eight ball fields when (they’re) not in use.”

Parks and Recreation recently committed to building the dog park by including the project in its 2018-2023 Parks and Recreation master plan submitted to the state in February. PetSafe’s Bark for Your Park grant program – which will award $25,000 grants to eight different communities in 2018 for new dog park construction – offered a timely opportunity for the county to try and procure outside funding for the project. The county will learn in August whether PetSafe has awarded a grant to Grand Traverse County for the dog park.

While Erickson has her “fingers crossed” funding will come through this summer, construction on the dog park would likely not begin until 2019. That’s because numerous other projects are already underway at the Civic Center, including the reconstruction of Easling Pool. The pool is currently closed to allow for more than $625,000 in renovations to take place to the pool sanitation system, air-handling equipment, liner, and decking. Erickson says the Civic Center will hold a volunteer worker bee Monday to paint the pool lobby and locker rooms ahead of flooring work next week (volunteers can come anytime between 8am and 4pm or 5:30pm and approximately 10pm Monday; meals will be provided for volunteers). The pool is scheduled to reopen August 6.

Facility staff are also busy working with Norte to refurbish the Civic Center’s former Northwest Michigan Fairgrounds building to act as the cycling nonprofit’s new headquarters, and are also helping theater group Parallel 45 plan the launch of an outdoor summer play repertory in 2019 in the Civic Center amphitheater. Another significant project will likely start this fall, according to Erickson: Nearly all of the fencing around the park will be removed to create a more open atmosphere and easier accessibility at the Civic Center, with the exception of a few small fencing sections next to residences.

Parks and Recreation commissioners Thursday also approved a new partnership with Kiwanis Club of Traverse City to maintain two gardens at the Civic Center entrance. Groundbreaking on the gardens is scheduled to take place in early summer 2019. Kiwanis members are committed to maintaining the gardens in exchange for naming rights. As another near-future park project, Erickson tells The Ticker that she’d like to see enhancements made to the Civic Center’s Native American marker tree.

“It’s not been given the esteem it deserves, and I want to revisit that as a placemaking project,” she says. “I want to make that area better and greener, and maybe even have some Native American historical education components around that tree.”

Erickson says the many park improvements have been "a long time coming.”

“I think it’s been a snowball effect...that started with the new playground, and now (the park) has been reinvigorated,” Erickson says. “I think people are re-embracing their Civic Center. It’s our Central Park, and the recreational hub of the region – and since it’s a hub, we should try to offer as much as we can here."

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