Finding a place to let Fido run free in Milton will soon be a problem of the past.
Santa Rosa County transferred management and operational rights of Optimist Park to the city of Milton on Thursday, whose already working to officially open a dog park on the location.
“We did find that we had a need (for a dog park),” said Brian Watkins, Milton city manager. “We had allowed dogs at north end of Russell (Harber) Landing, but now that improvements have been made we don’t allow them there anymore.”
Optimist Park, 6244 Old Bagdad Highway, has a walking track, playground and two ball fields. North of the track, the city has put up fences around the large open grassy area for the off-leash dog area.
The city is now in the process of preparing to officially open the park. Watkins said the city plans to put watering stations, benches, shade structures and other improvements to the dog area.
“We had been holding off until the agreement was official. We’ll get started on working on the park now. We’ve ordered signs and are waiting for them to come in,” he said.
The park will hopefully be open within the next month, according to Watkins.
Hunter Walker, county administrator, said the city and county had an agreement last year for Milton to use the ball fields for programs.
“We weren’t programming out of there and (the city) came to the board and requested that we enter an agreement to use for women’s softball program,” Walker said. “Our only stipulation for them (taking the whole park) is that in the event of a (natural or other disaster) the city would allow the county to use it.”
Watkins, said the City's youth sports program had expanded to the point where they needed to use more parks. In the meantime, the need for a dog park had become evident.
“We thought, ‘Boy that would be a nice area,’” Watkins said of the grassy area at Optimist Park.
Improvements are being completed now at the dog park. Watkins says it should be completed in about 30 days.