News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 27, 2013

First bark park nears summer opening

Former ‘brownfield’ site will find new life

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — After years of straining at the leash, the City of Terre Haute can almost smell opening day for its first-ever Bark Park.

The roughly three-acre facility, planned for the north end of Fairbanks Park, could open as early as summer, said Pat Martin, city planner.

“A lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time,” Mayor Duke Bennett said Friday afternoon. “We’ve been working on this for a while.”

Plans are still in the works, but the park would likely be divided into areas for large and small dogs, Martin said. Dogs using the park must have all of their shots and have all the proper registrations, he said.

“There are a whole set of rules,” Martin said. The city got the idea from successful dog parks in places such as Boise, Idaho, and Eugene, Ore., he said.

The park will be on property owned by Vectren Energy Delivery near the north end of Fairbanks Park not far from the edge of the river at the base of a hill. The land was once home to a manufactured gas plant with a history dating back to the Civil War, Martin said.

Construction of the park is expected to start in the spring and the facility could be open to its first four-legged users by summer, he said.

In its 2012-13 Sustainability Report, Vectren hailed the proposed park as the successful restoration of a former industrial “brownfield” site.

“The Bark Park will provide a safe and secure environment for people to exercise their dogs and restores a former brownfield site to a property benefiting the community,” the report states.

State environmental officials must give their approval before the park can open, Martin noted. However, the City and Vectren have been working closely with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Indiana Brownfields Program all through the planning process, he said.

“We’ve talked for a number of years about adaptive reuse” of the brownfield site, Martin said Friday.

The cost of the park is estimated at about $300,000. Most of that will be borne by Vectren in the form of two-to-three feet of clean top soil that must “cap” the property before it can be planted with grass. Concrete from the former gas facility must also be dug out and removed, Bennett said.

The City, for its part, will pay for fencing around the park and will also supply the amenities inside, such as teeter-totters for dogs and other equipment. Park Department staff have indicated they may build some of those items in house, Martin said.

Several enthusiastic dog lovers have approached the City offering to make in-kind or cash contributions to the park, Martin said.

Vectren plans to retain ownership of the land and lease it to the city, Martin said. The lease has not been finalized but could be as long as 99 years, he said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or