MADEIRA BEACH — A proposed fenced-in dog park at Bicentennial Park is garnering considerable attention from residents, who have pledged nearly $2,000 to make it a reality.
Mayor Travis Palladeno, who first proposed the park, hopes to convince Pinellas County school officials that dogs and kids can get along at Bicentennial Park, as long as there is a fence to keep them apart.
Last week, he got unanimous agreement from the City Commission to approach the school system about putting a "paw park" in the waterfront park, which is on the southeast side of the Tom Stuart Causeway.
Bicentennial Park, which is just west of Madeira Beach elementary and middle schools, is owned by the School Board and maintained by the city.
Leashed dogs are allowed in the park, but dog owners sometimes let their dogs run free — a practice that does not make school officials very happy, according to Palladeno.
The dog area would be fenced off from the rest of the park, which students from the schools occasionally use for marine-related education programs.
"The Sheriff's Office said they can't turn a blind eye anymore," Palladeno told the commission last week.
The change in law enforcement, he said, is due largely to a dog attack that happened several weeks ago at a McDonald's across the street.
In that incident, a 4-year-old child was bitten on the lip by a golden retriever that was at the restaurant with its owners. The child's grandfather stabbed the dog in the neck to stop the attack.
"I was getting a lot of emails from residents who wanted a dog park," Palladeno explained Monday. "But I saw the handwriting on the wall after the dog attack."
Palladeno wants to put in two fenced areas — one for small dogs and another for large dogs — so that pet owners can let their animals run free and play.
Each of the dog parks would have watering stations, benches for dog owners, and pipes and other amenities for the dogs.
"Residents are already offering money to pay for building the park," Palladeno said. "This is not going to cost the city a dime."
Palladeno said he has nearly $2,000 in pledges and materials for the dog park.
The mayor plans to take a formal survey of the park, donated by Northside Engineering Services, and the proposed fenced-in dog runs to school officials for approval.
Several years ago a similar proposal by the city was turned down by the school system, but it did not provide a separate fenced-off area to contain free-running dogs, Palladeno said.
If successful, Palladeno will bring an enabling ordinance for the dog park back to the commission for its approval.