Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer
The Beaches' first dog park, where canines can run and play off-leash in a fenced area, will open in Jacksonville Beach next fall, later than some people had hoped. The park will be part of a $2.2 million project that will expand Wingate Park, the city's busiest park, off Penman Road South.
Among other things, the project will add a new multipurpose and girls softball field, a football field and about 200 more parking spaces. Work crews will also improve drainage in the area, expand an existing retention pond and landscape and repave Penman Road South.
"This [dog park] is a small piece of a huge project," said Assistant City Manager Roy Paxson, noting the landscaping and fencing for the dog park probably wouldn't finish until the project wraps up in October.
The Beaches Dog Park Project, a citizens group that has been seeking a suitable place where their pets can get the exercise they need and crave, was never given a firm date on the dog park's opening, said project member Sandy Golding.
However, a city official who met with the group last year was optimistic the park could open in the late spring, Golding said. She said that's what they told people who have been asking about the park's opening.
"We realize there are a lot of other things going on," Golding said. "We're just really happy that we will have a dog park. We realize that we have to be patient and work with the city."
Last year, city officials suggested Wingate Park as a suitable place for the dog park since they were developing the expansion plans. The city offered to provide the land, including the retention pond where dogs may swim, and run a water line to the site. The City Council suggested the Beaches Dog Park group raise money to operate and finish developing the park, with touches such as landscaping and entry gates.
The group has raised about $2,200 from private and corporate donations and the sale of T-shirts, Golding said. They are still soliciting donations for benches and a bulletin board.
Golding and others who recently handed out dog …