Dog Owners Come Together to Start Dog Park in Little Egg Harbor

Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Joel and Stephanie Mahr are the impetus behind a push to get a dog park in the Little Egg Harbor area.

Around 25 dog owners from the Little Egg Harbor/Tuckerton area met at the Tuckerton Pub (soon to be Mickey’s Place) to talk about creating a dog park. Joel and Stephanie Mahr had advertised on local Facebook pages that they were volunteering to get a grass-roots group together to create a fenced dog park where dogs of all sizes and breeds could run free and play together while owners socialize. Ocean County runs two dog parks, one at the Ocean County Airport and another in Lakewood, and both Barnegat Light and Long Beach Township have small dog parks but there is no convenient dog park in the Southern Ocean County mainland area.

Joel Mahr is president of the local PBA, and his wife is an elementary school teacher in Tuckerton. Their kickoff campaign held Thursday night focuses on a suitable location for the park as well as how to fund it and gather support for the park from the Little Egg Harbor Township Committee.

Mahr said he and Stephanie had considered Freedom Fields County Park and the township’s sports complex, both off Route 539. Other locations such as the land around the township’s community center in Mystic Island or Tip Seaman County Park or wooded land that is owned by Jon Miller in Tuckerton were not as ideal because of their locations adjacent to neighborhoods.

The county might not be the best approach, either, said Mahr, because it would be a long drive to the freeholders meetings in Toms River if any issues came up at the proposed park. The best location, it was decided, is a wooded and shaded 2-acre area near the township’s sports complex off Route 539. It is vacant land, and both parking and restrooms are nearby, he said.

Township Committeeman David Schlick and Deputy Mayor Bobbi Jo Crea both attended the meeting. Schlick said the idea of a dog park has been around for a long time and comes up at the township meetings every few years but never gets done. Schlick was energized with the idea, and Crea said she had spoken to some members of the committee but she had not talked to everyone as of that evening.

Once a location goal was set, next was the logistics. One member of the group said the Barnegat Light Park costs a dog owner $35 a year to use, and dogs have to be licensed and have proof of rabies vaccinations.

Mahr had talked with Township Clerk Diane McCracken and was told that although there are around 3,000 dogs in the township, only a third have registered at the township for the required dog license. The license fee, said Mahr, is around $14 a year.

If a dog park was built and more dogs were required to have a license to use it, that could be one reason for the township to come on board with the idea.

Mahr also thought a key-pad system would be the best way to access the dog park so an attendant would not have to be on site at all times. Dog owners would have to clean up after their pets, and if it were built at the sports complex site, then the township would collect the garbage and perhaps provide grass cutting if necessary.

Liability insurance is one aspect of the park that needs to be explored. Another is the cost of building the park; the biggest expense would be the chain link fence.

Fundraising would be done with a direct mailing was Mahr’s thought, and someone else suggested selling advertising placards on the fence. “We should be able to raise $50,000, no problem,” said Mahr.

They also would incorporate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, separate from the township.

“We don’t want this to cost the taxpayers anything,” said Mahr when he suggested the dog owners would lease the property from the township and pay their own insurance costs.

“This is not just for Little Egg residents, but for the Pinelands regional area,” he noted.

Anyone who wishes to come to the next meeting of the Little Egg Dog Park informal committee can go to its Facebook page to learn the date and location, and message or post.

— Pat Johnson

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