Certain concerns need to be cleared to build city's first dog parkSubmitted: 12/18/2014
RHINELANDER - A community group wants to build a dog park in Rhinelander. The Hodag Paws Park group asked for permission to use county owned land on Air Park Road. But a few concerns need to be addressed before any decision is made.

The specific piece of land Hodag Paws Park wants to use is across the street from the Drs. Foster and Smith retail store.

The land was originally given to Printpack to build the company's manufacturing facility. But the company decided to build on Highway 17 and gave the property back to county. The county's Economic Development Corporation is currently trying to sell the property.

In a letter to county leaders, the Economic Development Council's executive director says the council "would advise against the use of this site for any purpose while it is being marketed."

The Economic Development Corporation doesn't want the area to lose businesses because there aren't any ready developed pieces of land. The land is the only publically-owned, industrial zoned site that's available for sale in Rhinelander.

"Another feature of that property is that it's right next to the railroad," says Michael Romportl, Oneida County's land information director. "It's a feature that's advantageous to industry."

The Hodag Paws Parks group thinks it won't stand in the way of the property being sold because it isn't planning on changing the land.

"We all hope a company might come and develop that land. We want them to keep marketing it and put their signs out," says Hodag Paws Park team leader Tina Werres. "We'd just like to use it in the interim. The fencing is already there so it's affordable for us to use. All we would do is put in a few benches and a port-a-potty."

The group would use the land as a temporary location. Group leaders say all of their equipment could easily be removed if the land was sold.

"The parcel out on Air Park Road is exactly 21 acres. It's a great size. The fencing is there," says Werres. "We wouldn't have to do anything other than to make sure the bottom of [the fence] is secure and put some entry gates into it."

The fencing is the biggest factor for the group. Hodag Paws Park could save a lot of money if it doesn't need to install a perimeter fence.

The group currently uses the hockey rink in Pioneer Park during the summer.

"It's enjoyable to be there with the pets and let your pet run," says Werres. "Otherwise, the amenities there are lacking."

Before a decision is made on the dog park, the group needs to figure out liability concerns.

"Who would be liable if one dog bit another dog, if a dog bit a person, and those sorts of things," says Romportl. "We don't know how that is handled. The group did not know yet."

The Hodag Paws Park group thinks it'll be able to figure out those concerns because other Northwoods towns were able to address the same problems. Right now, the closest dog park is in Tomahawk.

The group already proposed the park to the land record committee.The committee will now talk with the county lawyer and other leaders to settle any concerns. The proposal could be brought up to the county board in February.

Story By: Karolina Buczek

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Tree of Hope helps families in MerrillSubmitted: 12/18/2014

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