Written by Sara Hook // Photo by Macy Cox
Searcy dog owners received good news Tuesday, March 14, as Searcy city officials amended a longstanding ordinance to allow leashed dogs on designated walking trails in public parks.
The change in the law came from the results of surveys Searcy Mayor Mat Faulkner put out during his campaign. Director of Parks and Recreation Mike Parsons said a change in this ordinance was one of the many topics people mentioned.
“This all poured and stemmed from the citizens and things that they wanted,” Parsons said. “We’re trying to be very transparent with what we’re doing as a city, spending taxpayers’ dollars, and we want people to know that we are listening to them.”
Initially, the proposed change allowed dogs both on trails and in open spaces, but after some pushback, it was changed to include only the designated trails. Planning and development director Richard Stafford did much of the research in writing the ordinance.
“There was some concern brought up specifically on Spring Park,” Stafford said. “There are a lot of volunteers that work on all of the planting beds and the flowers and stuff at Spring Park, and it’s very important to them. And so allowing [dogs] in open places in a place like Spring Park kind of means the majority of the park.”
Stafford said allowing dogs in open spaces could make people think dogs are allowed off-leash, and keeping them on the trails makes it easier to keep them from areas like playgrounds and flowerbeds.
Alumnus Daniel Ockay has three retired racing greyhounds — Thorin, Éowyn and Bilbo — that he walks regularly on Harding’s campus. The old ordinance, Ockay said, was not well enforced — and for a while there were dog bag stations in the parks while it was still against the rules for dogs to be there.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Ockay said. “But also, eventually, I was like, ‘I’ll just avoid the parks, because it’s easier.’”
While Ockay said he would probably continue walking his dogs on campus, he would consider the parks as well. The existing parks will not be the only other option for long, however. The Searcy Parks and Recreation department is also in the process of constructing a new and improved dog park.
“We’ll relocate it to a more central area,” Parsons said. “Right now it’s just kind of out on the east side of town out by the events center and the ballfields. We’re gonna move it from there and put it in a more centrally located area, make it bigger, have more amenities for the animals, more shade, things of that nature.”
Those involved with the new park toured six different dog parks in central Arkansas to get ideas for the new design. While there is no set site yet or a date for construction to begin, Parsons said plans are being drawn up and to expect them soon.