FORT SMITH, Ark. — On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the Airport Dog Park in Fort Smith on Massard Road had its final day as the city makes way for an airport runway expansion.
Back in June, the city announced it would be the home of a foreign military pilot training center. For this to happen, the dog park near the Fort Smith Regional Airport had to close.
The Airport Dog Park in east Fort Smith spans over 30 acres with plenty of trees, a pond, obstacles and even a space for small dogs.
"Many people love this park. It provides a lot for the community,” said Shandi Siler, an advocate for the dog park.
Siler started the Facebook group "Fort Smith Dog Park" pushing for the park to stay. However, Nov. 30 was the final day for dogs and dog owners to spend time at the park, which was one of only three dog parks in Fort Smith.
"It's one of those things that have to happen for progress,” said Kevin Settle, Fort Smith City Director At-Large. “When you expand the runway, you have to get the land ready."
Settle says the dog park was given to the City of Fort Smith by the airport, and it must now be used for the runway expansion.
"This is going to be a detriment to the Fort Smith population," Siler said.
She says this is something that will only move the city toward regression, saying that the dog park helped fuel the economy.
Siler and others are asking the city to find new land nearby for a large dog park, but the city says they can't.
"Every piece of land in that area is already being taken up by commercial property or housing,” Settle said. “It's going to be moved at least a significant distance from where it is today to make something work."
One of Siler's suggestions as to where to move the park is Ben Geren Park, but the city says that space is not available because it is owned by the county.
The city is looking for new land, but there's no clear timeline on when it will be found. That's why both the city and former Airport Dog Park goers are asking people for their input during Thursday’s Board of Directors meeting.
"Talk to us, say what options they're presenting,” Settle said. “Land in Fort Smith is becoming a piece of commodity."
Dog park lovers say they'll do anything to get a new dog park as soon as possible, from building the fencing to moving equipment.
"I think a lot of people would donate time and money,” Siler said. “If they don't have the skill, we can set up a donation."
If you are planning to attend the Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, Dec. 2, it will begin at 6 p.m. and residents will be allowed to speak during the public comment period.