County denies dog park near airport; Dog park advocates remain hopeful for future optionsSubmitted: 04/21/2015
RHINELANDER - Oneida County won't allow a temporary dog park to be built on an empty piece of land near Rhinelander's airport.

Instead, business experts want to use the 21-acre lot to attract a new business to the community. They think the land is just too valuable to temporarily use as a park.

"[The] 21 acres of land is zoned light-industrial. It is fully serviced with city sewer, city water," says Roger Luce, the executive director of Oneida County's Economic Development Corporation. "It has natural gas running past it and its fiber optic is right out front on the street."

The lot is one of two properties in Oneida County that are ready for a business to build on. The other property is a one-acre lot in Three Lakes.

The 21-acre lot could be Oneida County's best option to attract a new business.

"Every community outside of Oneida County, anywhere south of here, has business parks with sites immediately available," says Luce.

In other counties, businesses have anywhere from 100 to 300 acres of ready property to choose from. Business experts think the only way Oneida County can compete is if its land is ready to go immediately.

"[Businesses] want to be able to come in and go, not have any hang ups, and not jump through a lot of hoops that take time," says Luce.

The Hodag Paw Park group says it'd move if the property was sold.

"We understand and we're all good citizens of this community. We'd like to have an industry come in and create more jobs," says Hodag Paw Park representative Tina Werres. "We knew it was going to be a temporary use but nonetheless, it would help form us as a group."

Economic development experts don't agree.

"Once the property becomes used for that purpose, it's like anything else [and] you become very comfortable with that," says Luce. "It becomes very difficult to say to that group, sorry you need to leave tomorrow."

Business experts think the dog park could turn businesses away from the land because many businesses don't want to be the group that removes a community park.

Even though the park was denied, the Hodag Paw Park group is still hopeful for the future. Its big concern is getting enough money for fencing.

"The big drawback of any other location is the fencing. To put benches and clear land and stuff, that's manpower and volunteers will step forward to do that," says Werres. "It's the big money situation that would be a problem."

Fencing can cost thousands of dollars. That's why the location by the airport was the prime spot for the Hodag Paw Park group.

The dog park group knew it would eventually have to move. But it thought the temporary spot would be a good option while they raise money for fencing a different location.

The denial of the dog park did lead to something positive for the group.

"What we got was cooperation from both the county and city representative that was there," says Werres. "They both agree that we've shown there is support [for the park]."

With local government on their side, the group thinks they'll get a dog park they want.

Then, they'll be out of the hockey rink in Pioneer Park they're currently using as a makeshift park.

"Access to water is quite limited and the soil that's on the ground is dirt and stones," says Werres. "It's not terribly pleasant."

Hodag Paw Park's main focus now is raising money for fencing. Depending on the size of the land they get, they expect to pay anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000.

Story By: Karolina Buczek

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