Rec Commission conceptually OK with dog park in South End

LACONIA — The Parks and Recreation Commission last night said it approves conceptually of a non-profit operated dog park on city-owned property on a rectangular tract of land between the dead end of Spruce Street and Growtth Road.
Brie Elliot of the Happy Tails Dog Park of the Lakes Region presented her conceptual plans for an off-leash park with areas for large dogs, small dogs and a puppy pen. She said the project would use about four or five acres of a 25-acre parcel of undeveloped land owned by the city since 1975. She is looking for a 5-year lease.
Calling it a "positive project," Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy said the other area city parks see a lot of dog traffic that include the unauthorized use of fenced in areas as off-leash exercise pens.
He also told the commissioners there wasn't a place in Laconia where dogs can safely run off a leash.
Dunleavy told Commissioners that Elliot was looking for an indication that the park would be permissible at the site before Happy Tails spent money on engineering.
Happy Tails Dog Park, said Elliot, was formed in 2008 and was once close to getting a location on commercial property in Belmont but the property was never purchased by the proposed developer. Since then she and her organization have been searching for a spot in the Lakes Region for the park.
She said in 2012 there were 2,088 dogs registered in Laconia and and total of 10,285 registered dogs in the Lakes Region. Other cities in New Hampshire with with private parks or private parks on public property include Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth, Hooksett, Rochester, Derry, Nashua, Dover, and Conway.
Elliot told the commission the park would be built and operated by her organization and the only assistance she would need from the city could be plowing if the park were to stay open in the winter.
George Hawkins Jr. said he liked the idea of the park but was concerned that if Happy Tails should fail financially, he wouldn't want the taxpayers to be responsible for the park.
To that end he said he wanted to make sure the language of the lease, should the dog park be approved by the Planning Board and the City Council, include a clause that Happy Tails would be responsible for the property clean-up should the project fail.
Commissioner Mitch Hamel said he wanted to make sure there would still be access to the land from Hounsell Road, which Growtth Road leads back to. (Growtth Road is associated with the Lakes Business Park. It is correctly spelled with two Ts because the word is an acronym for Get Rid Of Waste Through Team Harmony, which is a slogan of the Freudenberg-NOK company that formerly operated a manufacturing plant off the street.
No formal vote was taken last night.)
In other commission action, commissioners reviewed a request from the Parents of Murdered Children head Carmen Doucette who wants to expand a memorial at Stewart Park and add more brick pavers and a small plaque.
The Commissioners tabled the request to give them time to walk in the area and discuss the proposal with the Stewart family. There are 90 markers now and 16 of them are not inscribed.
Hawkins said he has always been supportive of the memorial but didn't think it would expand to this degree.
Commissioners said the memorial expansion would be brought up at next month's commission meeting.
Stewart Park is located on the bank of the Winnipesaukee River, at the intersection of Union Ave. and Main Street.