October 18, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010 our city commission approved fees to use Fleet Peeples Park with your dogs effective December 1, 2010. Commissioners Dillaha, Cooper, and McMacken voted for the fees. Commissioner Anderson and Mayor Bradley voted no. (I am not a dog owner.)
Hundreds of Winter Park residents and non-residents take advantage of Fleet Peeples Park weekly to exercise dogs off leash and socialize with other dog owners. This has been going on for over ten years. Dog owners are a constituency whose needs should be addressed just as the city addresses needs of other constituencies ranging from the Winter Park Historical Association, to the library, to low income housing and social programs.
Some people involved in the volunteer group Friends of Fleet Peeples park have been truly nasty in response to what they perceive as threats to their unfettered use of the park. Members of our Parks Commission and City Commission have been equally nasty to these people and their position overtly biased. It is out of control. Parks Commission member Bonnie Jackson, for example, appeared before the city commission to express her personal distaste for off leash use of Fleet Peeples Park as follows, “I don’t want your dog that just went in the lake, ran through a bunch of mud, sniffing everybody else’s behind, coming over and jumping on me.” Jackson and Dillaha are also pushing an effort to remove on leash dogs from Mead Gardens and other city parks as well as working to prohibit animal centered events on or near Park Avenue. Ms. Jackson has demonstrated no understanding of or tolerance for the realities of pet behavior or ownership, and seems ill suited to fairly represent the broad spectrum of interests using our city parks.
Fees have been imposed not as a means to support and improve the park, but in an effort to limit use of the park. Note, however, that the city now takes full responsibility for the off leash dog park. Users can now rightly demand that the city routinely clean, maintain, and improve the park to standards acceptable to paying customers. (That the costs of doing so are not known or provided for is testament to the questionable judgment applied in deciding to initiate fees at this juncture.)
I encourage every member of the Friends of Fleet Peeples Park and every interested dog owner in Winter Park and beyond to pay the now required fees and to send an email to MayorandCommissioners@cityofwinterpark.org noting your fee payment and demanding the following as a paying user of the park:
- The city needs to implement an on-site day pass system for Fleet Peeples Park.
- The city needs to provide on-site staff daily to pick up feces and to routinely encourage all users to clean up after their dogs and abide by other park rules.
- The city needs to provide daily on site enforcement to ensure all users of the park have paid the necessary usage fees.
- The city needs to fund and implement the current approved master plan for Fleet Peeples Park.
The city is now obligated to take full responsibility for cleaning, maintaining, and improving an off leash dog park to Winter Park’s high standards, as well as enforcing collection of usage fees. All dog owners paying the fee to use Fleet Peeples Park can and should hold the city accountable.
Regards, Pete Weldon