Changes OK’d For New OC Dog Park

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Dog Playground, now in the final stages of completion, will be seeing some changes before it is open to the public, including modifications to the price and access.

At a Recreation and Parks meeting Tuesday, Tom Shuster, Director of Recreation and Parks, reported the city is currently installing the final elements of the dog park, which was originally slated to open at the end of October, but a delay in the gate installation has pushed the grand opening back to Dec. 1.

The dog playground, located on a rectangular plot of land along 94th Street just behind the existing tennis courts and children’s playground, will be available from dawn till dusk, with the entrance to the park being controlled by an electronic scanning device, which will not only control the hours of operation, but will also check an identification card to make sure the user is registered and has paid their fees. Shuster reported that the Advantek gate system, which controls the access to the park, had recently been installed. The next and final step will be training members of the staff and the IT department how to use the new software.

Shuster explained that while the card activates the gate to open, all gate access would be monitored from Northside Park. The gates can also be opened remotely from Northside Park. In case of a power outage, a back up battery will ensure the usage of the gate for four to six hours. Emergency exit buttons will also be available to allow for a fail-safe exit from the area.

Shuster added officials would also be able to monitor whether the gate has been left open, allowing for problems with the gate system to be addressed sooner.

Once the new dog park is open, the area behind the Art League building, which is currently acting as an impromptu dog park, will no longer be available. Letters have been mailed out to all residents in Ocean City with licensed dogs as well as to all those who are currently using the unofficial dog park behind the Art League building.

Although the dog playground is expected to be open by early December, access cards will not be sold until the staff is trained and the gate system is fully functioning.

Shuster informed the Recreation and Parks Committee that he has been garnering feedback from residents. As a result, Shuster made two recommendations to the committee. First, Shuster addressed the current year-round fee for residents of $70. After hearing concerns that the fee was too steep, Shuster recommended that the price be decreased to $50.

“We would have more immediate and initial response if we dropped our price,” he said.

The committee agreed that a $50 fee for residents would be more desirable.

The price for a non-resident year round pass will remain at $100. Passes are also available on a weekly basis for $15. Shuster explained that if the weekly pass is returned, a $5 deposit will be refunded, making the price of the weekly pass essentially $10. All passes must be obtained from Northside Park.

The second concern dealt with the separation of large and small dogs within the dog park.  The area will be divided into two different areas to ensure safety between dogs of differing sizes. The two areas will include one for little dogs weighing 28 lbs. or less, and one for larger dogs weighing more than 28 pounds. Shuster explained that some owners expressed that their small dogs are accustomed to large dogs and would like access to the large dog area. To solve the problem, Shuster recommended the city allow small dogs to enter the large dog area if the owner agrees to sign an additional waiver.

The committee gave unanimous support to both  recommendations.