An effort to create a traditional dog park in the Fort Atkinson area has hit the end of its leash.

The Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce’s 32nd Project LEAD class originally planned, as its class project, to add a two-acre dog park on the east side of Dorothy Carnes County Park.

However, the idea was buried Feb. 3 after the Jefferson County Parks Committee voted 3-2 against locating the canine exercise space at the county-owned park, located just west of Fort Atkinson.

On Jan. 6, the Jefferson County Parks Committee voted 4-0 to explore the options of creating what would be the county’s second dog park at Dorothy Carnes Park, but that plan faced opposition from the Friends of Rose Lake, whose members unanimously voted against it at a Jan. 21 meeting. Members also spoke at the Park Committee’s Feb. 3 session.

Dorothy Carnes Park overlooks the Rose Lake State Natural Area, which includes a 49-acre lake.

Dick Wanie, a member of the Friends of Rose Lake, said there was not one specific reason for the group’s opposition to adding a dog park; rather, it simply was a desire to keep the area as a nature preserve.

“It was generally just a thought that a dog park doesn’t belong there,” Wanie said. “Nobody was vehemently against it; (they) just wanted it to stay as it is. Everyone had their own reasons, but the general theme (was) people wanted it to stay as a wildlife place, not a dog park.”

Wanie pointed out that currently, a visitor to the park can walk a dog on a leash, which still will be allowed.

So with the Parks Committee denying the full dog park plan, the chamber’s leadership class members went back to the drawing board.

Chamber Executive Director Carrie Chisholm said the next steps would be discussed at Project LEAD’S Wednesday meeting. She said the tentative new plan isn’t a full, traditional dog park, but, rather, added amenities for dog owners in the area.

“When the group initially brainstormed their ideas, they really wanted to do something for dog owners,” Chisholm said. “From the get-go, the idea was, even if we can’t get a dog park in place, what can we do to make dog owners happy?”

The idea, according to Chisholm, is to take advantage of all the economic benefits that come with a canine-friendly community.

“There’s all kinds of data in the economic development world about a dog world and what they contribute to a local economy,” Chisholm said.

The project, which must be developed in the Fort Atkinson 53538 ZIP Code, is aided by the fact that the city does not have a leash law. This means any amenities Project LEAD can add will allow people to spend time with their dogs.

Chisholm also said this project could build momentum for the county to step in at a later date and build the space into a full, traditional dog park.

“It’s possible the county could take the ball and run with it,” Chisholm said.

Chisholm said an official announcement of this year’s project is expected Feb. 18.

The current Jefferson County Dog Park is located just off of State Highway 26, one mile south of Johnson Creek. The 109-acre space includes the 23-acre Terri Tinsley Dog Exercise Area, opened in November of 2003. A major expansion was completed in 2009, with 36 acres of fenced ground added to the original 23 acres.

Today’s expanded park contains two off-leash large dog areas, as well as two off-leash small dog areas. It has a mowed/groomed trail system, a wooded trail in upper large-dog area, picnic tables, shelters, restrooms, fun play equipment, three hand water pumps, benches, shelters with catch pens, parking for 100 cars and a maintenance service shed.

Doggie bags are provided at each entrance and throughout the park. Waste receptacles are throughout the park.

A daily permit or annual tag is required to bring your dog to the Jefferson County Dog Park. Dogs must be four months or older to enter the park, have a current rabies vaccination and have a dog license from the municipality in which they reside.

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