After eight years of lobbying, arguing and sometimes irritating City Council members, Scott A. Gates finally received enough support Monday night potentially to get a dog park created in the city.
The majority of council members informally agreed that they are open to donating land for a centrally located dog park somewhere in the city.
However, they did not make a formal commitment to the project. They told Mr. Gates no city money can be used to build or maintain it.
They also made it clear that Mr. Gates must raise money for the project before they would consider donating the land.
Yet Mr. Gates said he finally believes the dog park will be built. “I’m on a cloud,” he said.
About 20 supporters joined him at Monday’s meeting, with five speakers contending dogs need a place to exercise and learn social skills with other canines.
Dog owner Carmella Longo said she hoped that the city and the dog park supporters could work together to get it built.
“All of us are on the same side,” she said.
In the past eight years, the five-member City Council vehemently opposed the city’s getting involved in the project. Mr. Gates recently met with council members Stephen A. Jennings, Teresa R. Macaluso and Joseph M. Butler Jr. to see if he could sway their support. The three said they did not oppose it.
With the council now open to the idea, Mr. Gates said he can go to businesses and individuals to obtain financial commitments to build the dog park. A local fence company, he said, has promised to donate material.
At this point, he doesn’t know how much it would cost or how big it would be; that depends on donations, he said. He has always wanted it to be built in Thompson Park, but council members would not agree on a site Monday night.
Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham told him that the council still has to agree on a site and what the project would look like, warning him that it could be difficult to find donors.
“I tell you it’s not going to be easy,” he said, “because there’s a lot of people there asking for money.”
It was always an uphill battle. Mr. Gates and council members sparred over the issue since he began attending council meetings in 2006. They pointed out that a dog park exists at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Jefferson County’s campus on Water Street.
At one time, Mr. Gates said he raised $225,000 from an unidentified donor, but council members would not budge. Several other communities in the region, including Plattsburgh, Potsdam and Canton, either have dog parks or are planning them.
When he first proposed the idea, his dog, Mia, accompanied him to the first three council meetings he attended, Mr. Gates recalled. Now 12, the dog suffers from Cushing’s disease and is going blind. The husky will not be able to enjoy the dog park if it’s built, he said.
“I’ll take her there one time and we can be there together,” he said. “She started this out with me. She’ll be there with me all the way.”
By Craig Fox, Times Staff Writer