Tails Will Wag At Wheeling Dog Park Today

WHEELING — As the dog days of summer set in, Wheeling canines are getting back their place to run and congregate.

The Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park: A PetSafe Park in East Wheeling will re-open today after being closed since spring. A re-opening ceremony is set for 6 p.m. at the park. The public — and their dogs — are invited to attend.

The park initially opened last October, but was closed in March following reports of dogs cutting their paws on glass that was surfacing on the grass. The old grass since has been killed with herbicide, and new top soil and sod have been placed.

The re-opening of the park is just the beginning of an effort to rehabilitate Wheeling’s city parks, according to Vice Mayor Chad Thalman. The park is located at East Wheeling’s Tunnel Green Recreation Complex.

“It’s exciting the dog park is about to re-open,” he said. “It’s one of the more popular things we have in this city.

“This council now is focused on getting all our parks and playground facilities fixed and backup and running,” said Thalman.

Thalman commended the efforts of the Fitzsimmons family, who donated $32,000 toward replacing the sod.

He termed the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on the project “small,” as he does not remember council being asked to approve any expenditures for the sod. City Manager Robert Herron is required to get approval from council for any disbursements above $15,000.

The park initially cost $150,000 to build, and repairs at the park were expected to cost an additional $100,000. City officials used the Fitzsimmons’ donation and about $30,000 left over from construction of the park to do the work.

Thalman didn’t know final totals, and Herron didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.

Organizers began raising money for the dog park in 2012, and in 2013 Wheeling’s dog park won $25,000 as a runner-up in PetSafe’s “Bark for Your Park” online voting contest. In total, more than $110,000 was raised for the dog park.

Thalman said council now turns its efforts toward completing the rehabilitation of Garden Park in Warwood. With a price tag of over $100,000, Thalman said it will be the largest park project totally funded with taxpayer dollars.

A playground constructed at Heritage Port cost about $200,000, but was mostly paid for by dollars raised by the Junior League of Wheeling.

Council’s finance committee soon will meet to discuss which playground improvement projects they will fund in the coming months. The city has more than 30 parks and playgrounds, according to Thalman.