Dog Park Proposed at City Council Meeting, Residents Suggest Prospect Park


Abe Frato

A group of neighbors congregate at Prospect Park with their dogs.

A group of Oberlin residents attended the City Council’s regular meeting on April 17 to discuss the possibility of allowing their dogs to roam freely in Prospect Park.

During the pandemic, a group of residents living near Prospect Park created a group that brought their dogs to the green space located behind Prospect Elementary School from 4:30– 5:30 p.m. However, it is illegal to have a dog off-leash in Oberlin.

During the April 3 City Council regular meeting, City Council members discussed how to deal with dogs being off-leash at Prospect Park. One factor brought up was that Oberlin hosts summer camps at the Oberlin Activities and Enrichment Center — formerly known as Prospect Elementary— and council members expressed concern in prioritizing children’s safety when the dogs were let off leash in the same area.

Ian Yarber, recreation director, shared with the council that he had spoken with some, but not all of the individuals who let their dogs off-leash during summer camp hours.

“When we had summer camp, we [had] 85 kids out on the playground,” Yarber said. “People would come and just let their dogs loose and run. And I would say, ‘Look, you see we have all these kids, can you come back after 3 p.m.?’ Because these kids don’t know your dog.”

Residents who bring their dogs to the park had requested the Recreation Commission to create a time frame making it legal to let dogs off-leash in the park. Chair of the Recreation Commission Kevin Miller shared with the Council that this request was denied by the Recreation Commission.

“What it comes down to is that it’s just not possible to facilitate what’s being asked of the dog park creation,” Miller said. “They aren’t asking for a formal dog park to be created, but they want certain hours to be designated as dog park hours and with just how little space there is there, and with the summer program coming up there quickly you have to prioritize the kids who are using the space for what it’s there for so we decided, the commission, to not to move forward with it.”

The Council decided to move forward with clear signage and enforcing the law as stated.

“I believe that it’s best to begin with education, clear signage, I dont have the ordinance in front of me whether it’s a misdemeanor, court appearance, any of that,” City Manager Rob Hillard said. “I think we educate, inform, be clear and enforce because that’s the law unless council changes the law.”

Any animal found on park property off-leash may be impounded according to ordinance 927.03.

On April 17, a group of residents who congregate at the park urged the council to allow dogs off-leash at Prospect. Members of the group expressed that their informal gatherings, dubbed the ‘dog party,’ created a sense of community, stewardship, and neighborliness.

“I am struck by the irony that the inaugural act for this community and enrichment center is to eliminate the most vibrant community currently using it,” said Will Kunert, hospice chaplain at the Cleveland Clinic.

Rebecca Cross, OC ’84, asked the council to consider setting aside part of the park as an official fenced-in dog park.

“Let’s make part of this big green space an official dog park,” Cross said. “We have been invited as community members to weigh in on the use of this space. I’d like to see my tax dollars spent on building a fence across the lawn area, establishing the western half of the field for a dog park.”

Sixteen members of the group signed a letter that was sent to Council. In the letter, the group expressed that Splash Zone, a legal dog park available to them, was too small for their group and required that they drive, increasing their carbon footprint. The Council advised that the group should bring their request for a dog park to the Recreation Commission. For the time being, Splash Zone is the only legal dog park in Oberlin.

“My only regret … is [that] the dog park there operates in conjunction with the operating hours at Splash Zone,” City Council President Brian Burgess said. “So when Splash Zone closes at, I want to say 8 p.m. on weekdays, the dog park closes. And people were bringing up that there’s a cost associated with it. It is nominal and really the point of the cost is to partially offset the cost of operating the dog park.”

Burgess expressed that changes would not be likely because the City has to account for the potential harm from others outside the group expressing their concerns.

“The woman at the podium made a good point that the dog owners that were in attendance tonight, they’re responsible,” said Burgess. “They’re the ones that really care. It’s not the ‘dog party,’ it’s not them. You also heard her say that when she shows up, she finds fresh piles of dog poop on the ground and she’s cleaning up after other people because most people who are going over there are not as responsible as the people tonight. We can’t just put out an exception — what, have an ordinance that says only responsible people can have their dogs off-leash — it’s just not feasible.”