Beaufort County nixes site for dog park in Bluffton

The Island PacketMarch 10, 2014 

Pictured is newly-elected president of the Friends of Bluffton Dog Park Cheryl Raugh with her two-year-old Golden Retriever Boone.

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— Puddled water has spoiled the proposed site of a dog park in Bluffton.

Now, the group lobbying for the park is returning to plans to build behind a housing development, only to find a few residents don't want a park there, either.

A proposed site on the north end of Buckwalter Regional Park is too close to a parking lot and saturated with water -- ankle-deep in some places -- where mosquitoes could breed, Beaufort County administrator Gary Kubic told Cheryl Raugh, president of the Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks.

"Why do we want a bunch of a people out there with their dogs, enjoying their time, swatting mosquitoes all over the place?" Beaufort County spokeswoman Joy Nelson asked.

The mosquitoes could be a health hazard for dogs and humans, Nelson added. Mosquitoes are known to carry heartworms, which can debilitate or even kill dogs.

Attempts Wednesday and Thursday to reach Kubic were unsuccessful.

Kubic told Raugh the park could go in the originally proposed location on the south end of Buckwalter Regional Park, according to Nelson.

That location is behind The Farm, a residential community.

Residents there met with Raugh on Feb. 27 to discuss the dog park, which would cover about 2 1/2 acres plus buffer space behind Mill Street, parallel to Buckwalter Parkway.

Many were not in favor of the plan.

"There are privacy and noise concerns, definitely," said Gary Maurer, president of The Farm's homeowners association. "This dog park is going to be looking into backyards and sliding glass doors of everybody who lives on the street."

About 17 homes on Mill Street have backyards that face the area where the park is planned, he said.

Maurer added that real estate agents have told residents the dog park would lower their property values.

Raugh said she is willing to redesign the park to include buffers of 25 to 50 feet.

"As far as not building and going somewhere else -- no," she said. Raugh said she wouldn't consider moving because the dog park was part of Beaufort County's original plan for Buckwalter Regional Park when it was developed in 2011.

Much has changed for the Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks since the agreement to build behind The Farm was signed.

Former board president William Grooms was arrested June 11 on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the group, members said. Grooms committed suicide in July.

His wife, Amanda Mitchell-Grooms, was indicted in September on a charge of accessory after the fact. Her case has yet to go to trial.

Raugh said the group has recovered and raised more than half of the $50,000 it needs to build the park.

She hopes to have dogs in the park sometime this year, she said.

"We will persevere to make a dog park in our community a reality sooner than later," she wrote in an email.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan

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