Hastings has pitched the idea of an off-leash dog park, and many residents are finding the possibilities fetching.
Adding a city dog park was included in Hastings' comprehensive plan update in 2007, and this month city leaders conducted an online survey to gauge interest.
"We got quite good feedback," said Lee Stoffel, Hastings' communications coordinator, who gathered survey results. "A lot of people say they want to see one in Hastings; I'd say at least 75 or 80 percent [of those who responded] are in support of having one."
The city put aside $50,000 in its 2014 proposed budget for a dog park, although the idea was "very preliminary," said Hastings Assistant City Administrator Julie Flaten. City leaders emphasize that Hastings has not decided to build a dog park, but is only exploring the idea for now.
Of the 268 people who responded, 90 percent were dog owners; 44 percent drive to a dog park outside of Hastings, and 57 percent say they would visit the Hastings park weekly.
A top concern was safety, Stoffel said. "How do you ensure that dogs that aren't well behaved don't become an issue, and how do you regulate that?" she said. "People said if it's not safe for their dog, they wouldn't use it."
Other issues cited in the survey were regular maintenance, sustainable dog waste management and nice amenities.
"Some dog parks have amenities like harder, paved trails, or softer trails with wood chips, so owners have a place to walk around and get exercise themselves," said Chris Jenkins, Hastings' parks and recreation director. "A lot of it is socialization of dogs. Some parks have obstacle courses or agility [courses], where you run dogs up and down a slide or through a tunnel. Some really large parks have lakes or river access."
A local business owner is in talks with the city about donating land. The parcel is just over 13 acres, and the usable part for a dog park is five to seven acres, Jenkins said. "[The location is] up in the air to some degree at this point," Jenkins said. "There's certainly nothing set in stone. We're working on identifying the right piece of land for the look and feel of the facility we'd like to have in town."
Staffers are researching funding and want to continue to invite public input in the potential planning process. "How exactly the Hastings dog park would move forward remains to be seen," Jenkins said. "I personally think it's a great asset to have in town. It's an opportunity for people of like mind — dog owners — to socialize in a setting they don't normally have. "