Riverwest’s New Dog Park
Land once owned by Johnson Controls will become the newest dog park in Milwaukee County.
The Riverwest Neighborhood will soon be home to the newest dog park in Milwaukee County
The park is currently under construction at the city block between Concordia and Auer Avenues and Bremen and Weil Streets. Presently, there are five dog parks in the county: Currie, Granville, Estabrook, Runway and Warnimont parks. A dog park in Riverwest has been planned for many years and progress is finally being made.
Its location is on land previously owned by Johnson Controls International (JCI). The lot has been abandoned for some time and is now a brownfield. Brownfield land is typically unused commercial or industrial properties that may be contaminated, but are suitable for reuse. The old Johnson Controls land is indeed contaminated, and because of this, possible uses for the property are very limited.
With the construction of the dog park fully under way dog owners have a reason to be excited. Kim McMahon and her fiancé Travis Jansen own two Pomeranian-Chihuahua mixes. “It’ll be nice to have somewhere fenced in where the pups can play,” says Jansen.
An urban garden was previously under consideration for the land but possible contamination to the crops from the polluted soil killed the idea. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) champions the reuse of brownfields. There are around 10,000 brownfields in Wisconsin.
Johnson Controls donated the land to the Milwaukee County Parks Department to be made into a dog park. JCI will oversee the reworking of the land to make it safe for use. This involves digging to a depth specified by the DNR, pouring concrete, putting new soil on top of the concrete and planting grass. Vents and monitoring equipment will be present at the site to ensure that contamination levels are under control. After the remediation of the land, the park will be safe for dogs.
Kevin Frank, president of ROMP, Residents for Off-leash Milwaukee Parks, says the entire block will be fully fenced in, allowing dogs to play off-leash. The addition of double-gates will ensure the safety of the dogs while going from being leashed outside of the park to off-leash inside. The fence will be six-feet high, due to the urban location and to make sure the dogs are safely enclosed. The Milwaukee County Parks Department will oversee the upkeep and maintenance of the park, including mowing the lawn and disposing of garbage.
A Dog Exercise Area (DEA) permit is required for any dog to be allowed in the park. The license is $25 for one dog, with each additional dog costing $10 more. The permit not only helps offset the cost of maintaining the park, but also helps ensure all dogs are up to date with their vaccinations. This should reduce the spread of diseases like rabies between canines.
The park will mainly serve the Riverwest neighborhood. Due to the size and location of the park it is unlikely to draw pet owners from other parts of the county. Estabrook Park in Shorewood has a much larger area devoted to dogs, about six acres. But for residents in the neighborhood, it will be a great place to exercise their dogs.
It will be very convenient, says McMahon. “People in the neighborhood will be able to let their dogs run free without having to drive anywhere.”
The Riverwest dog park has yet to be named, but Frank says a naming contest will be held. Residents of Riverwest will submit suggestions and a vote will be held to decide the winner.
Initially, the park was expected to open on Memorial Day weekend in 2013. Due to the time required for remediation of the land, the opening date is unknown. After the soil on the lot has been replaced, waiting for the grass to grow will be the main issue.
“It will be kind of frustrating for some people,” Frank says. “Because they will probably see it and it will look like it’s finished, but they’ll just need to make sure that everything grows in and settles well before we let the dogs have at it.”