The future of the Hastings Dog Park is in doubt with park officials indicating they plan to terminate its agreement with the city that covers the park. Minutes of a Dog Park Committee board meeting were left at Hastings City Hall last week declaring its intent, but City Manager Jeff Mansfield said more has to be done to nullify a legal contract between the city and the group.
The city has been working with the “Hastings Dog Park Committee” on amending some issues in the agreement for some time, Mansfield said. The city’s contract for operating the dog park is with an organization legally known as the “Hastings Dog Park Companions.”
“This may be the same group, but the board members and officers have apparently changed over the past year or so,” Mansfield said.
The city asked for several documents, (adopted bylaws, articles of incorporation, and IRS letter of determination) to help understand the legal status of the Hastings Dog Park Companions, and identify who are currently members and officers of their board of directors.
“To date, we have received some of that information, but not all,” he said.
A half dozen people spoke at the City Council meeting Monday, asking the city to make sure the dog park stays open. Two former members who help create the park offered to step up and run the park in the interim, if they were needed.
Other comments included complaints on the lack of communication from companion officials to members and park users, erratic behavior of the officials, requests for the city to run the park if the companions abandons it, park officials not acting in the best interest of the park, and if the city can ban removal of park infrastructure while decisions are being made.
All strongly supported keeping a dog park in the city, calling it an attraction for people to come to Barry County, a great place for people to socialize and for dogs to get needed exercise and interact with other dogs. //
The threat of closure came to light after members of the group came to the Sept. 26 council meeting seeking an increase in the number of dogs allowed at the park from three to four per person. Instead, citing the difficulty of one person controlling more than two dogs in an incident and possible injury to people or dogs, the council voted to set the number of dogs allowed per person at two, down from the present three.
Different groups have worked on getting a dog park since at least 2009; the Hastings Dog Park Companions signed a contact with the city to build and maintain the park in 2011.
In June, 2016, the city and the companions agreed on a contract for another five years of operation; the city agreed to pay the costs for mowing the area and a portable toilet. When approving the agreement, it was noted that other issues with the park would be worked out.
At the time, the companions estimated 80 people a day came to the park with their dogs.