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Suamico holds off allowing dogs on Calavera trails

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – A proposed change to the village code to allow dogs on the Calavera Springs Park walking trails has been told to sit and stay.

The Suamico Village Board agreed Sept. 20 to table action on final approval of an ordinance amendment, pending further research by law enforcement and the recreation director.

The board favored policing the area and contacting nearby property owners as to what issues they’re having with dogs at the park, and then referring the findings to the village’s Park, Recreation, Forestry and Trails Committee.

With the exception of certified service animals and police-authorized animals, Suamico’s parks and recreation facilities ordinance currently doesn’t permit dogs, cats and other similar pets in any village park.

The proposed amendment, which received its first reading by the board Aug. 16, would make an exception for the Calavera Springs Park walking trails, where dogs on a 6-foot leash would be allowed.

The board decided not to approve the amendment Sept. 20 after hearing from Erin Wood, who lives near the park.

Wood said she experiences problems with dogs brought to the park and left unleashed going onto her property already.

“The vast majority (of dogs) are usually unleashed,” she said. “And so, many times, especially in like that kind of 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. window, or on the weekends, then those dogs – they are in the ravine behind my house. They’re running through the playground where my kids play. We haven’t had a (dog) bite. We haven’t had anything like that happen. But it is a concern, if you will, to have additional pets being brought into the area and encouraging that as a walking trail, versus what’s currently out there.”

Wood said her biggest concern is an inability to enforce the amendment, given dogs currently not permitted in the park are there now unleashed.

“Encouraging the behavior of bringing your dog up there is quite another thing, versus people who are just (going) for a walk (and say), ‘I don’t see anybody,’ and they let their dog off-leash,” she said.

Wood said she doesn’t look forward to additional pets in the park, especially with her children outside.

“I’d like to be able to have them play out there and not necessarily be worried about a random pet coming through,” she said.

Village Administrator Alex Kaker said people seeing illegal activity should report it to the Brown County Sheriff’s Office through the non-emergency number for matters not deemed an emergency.

“That’s really the best we can do,” he said. “We don’t have park attendants who are out there monitoring.”

Wood said she contacted Recreation Director Leah Hackmaster as to how the proposed ordinance came to be and was told the idea stemmed from a survey the village sent related to creating a dog park in Suamico.

“If people said they were in favor of a dog park, I understand that…,” Wood said. “I understand people wanting to have a place to share with their pet.”

Trustee Steve Andrews, a member of the Park, Recreation, Forestry and Trails Committee, said the committee hasn’t pursued a dog park because of the cost.

“(A dog dark is) very costly,” he said. “We took a small step to just try the trails in Calavera Springs Park.”

Other than some signage, Andrews said allowing dogs on leashes in the park wouldn’t cost the village anything.

Village President Sky Van Rossom said he would like to see a Suamico dog park funded by private donations because the village isn’t going to spend $250,000.

Van Rossom said he also wasn’t sure at this point whether dogs should be allowed at Calavera Springs Park.

“If we table this just for now, we could ask law enforcement, DEOs (Directed Enforcement Officers), to park up there,” he said. “See what you see – tell me what you see. Come back to us, you know, in a month, or two months, or whatever, some period that seems appropriate.”

Trustee Jason Ward said he would hate to have to limit the rights of others because of those who can’t follow the rules.

But he said he wants to get the problem of unleashed dogs in the park in check before approving the ordinance amendment.

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