If you’re a dog owner and you live north of County Road 466, then we’d suggest you drop The Villages Developer a note and ask him what he has against man’s best friend.
If you ask us, the message to Villagers has become quite clear, dogs – especially large ones – don’t seem to be welcome here. That fact has become painfully obvious by the glaring lack of dog parks or open spaces where Villagers can take their furry friends to run and play.
That sad fact also was compounded last week when Villagers lined up at the podium to give the Amenity Authority Committee a tongue-lashing over the loss of an extremely popular adhoc dog park behind the Rio Grande Family Pool. The expansion of the air gun range behind the pool includes a plan to fence off access to the acreage in question that had been used for years as a place to allow dogs to run free.
Residents were none too happy about that decision and they lined up to complain about the quality and safety of The Villages’ official dog parks. They questioned the usage of the air gun range and wanted to know about the Developer’s role in limiting access to the acreage. One Villager rightly pointed out that “hundreds of pets will be displaced” and she predicted the existing dog parks will be “overwhelmed.”
We’re not suggesting that this private property should necessarily remain as a dog park. But we are flat out stating that a glance around the northern portion of the community – the area many suggest has long been forgotten by the Developer who sees dollar signs south of State Road 44 – reveals a huge need for more dog parks.
Currently, there are just two dog parks in AAC territory north of CR 466. One is at Paradise Park in the Historic Section of the community (funny, but it doesn’t surprise us that the area where Villages Founder Harold Schwartz once lived and walked among his neighbors would have such a facility available for dog-loving residents to use).
The second one, the Mulberry Dog Park, wasn’t in the original plan for the community. It opened several years ago and in January 2018 became a hot bed of controversy after Villagers apparently weren’t taking care of it as they had promised to do.
So let’s go back to the original plan for The Villages between U.S. Hwy. 27/441, south of the Historic Side, and CR 466. By now we’re sure you’ve done the math and realize that when the Developer started popping up site-built homes and left the Historic Side and its mobile homes behind, he didn’t allow space for a single dog park. That’s right, not one dog park apparently could be fit in among the packed-tight houses so that Villagers – known pet lovers – would have a place to take their dogs for exercise and enjoyment.
As we all know, dog owners living north of CR 466 are literally desperate for places to take their pets. They hear grief if they walk them at postal stations with open grassy areas. They get griped at if they take them anywhere near town square. And most residents get pretty hyped up if a dog leaves something behind in their yards – even if the owner plans to pick it up in a bag for proper disposal.
Now let’s take a look at the area south of CR 466, where three dog parks exist and you can bet that more will come along soon. There’s no doubt that those parks are much nicer than the two north of CR 466. And it’s clear that the Developer figured out that dog parks are important to those who open their wallets and fund the extravagant lifestyles of the third and fourth generation of Morse family members who run the community.
Of course, this will come as no surprise, but the Village of Fenney – the golden child in the eyes of The Villages Developer – has its own dog park. Residents in that area – the one that isn’t yet accessible by golf cart and won’t be for quite some time – might complain about blasting from a nearby limestone quarry and hearing announcements from the much-too-close Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, but when it comes time to walk Rover, they’ve got a really nice place to go – one with covered seating and a fancy dog agility ramp, among other things. And unlike the nearby boondoggle known as the Putt & Play, it even has parking areas for regular-size vehicles.
Is it just us or does it appear more and more every day that the folks who own The Villages conveniently forget about established areas whenever they start building new ones? Residents dealing with a sinkhole nightmare in the Village of Calumet Grove certainly feel that way. And every dog owner living north of CR 466 should, too.
We fully understand that the AAC doesn’t have the authority to allow access to the adhoc dog park that’s being closed – the group’s legal counsel made that quite clear at Wednesday’s meeting. But the board certainly has the ability to search for solutions. And they can take action if they find the right one.
If that becomes the case, then it will be yet another example of residents having to step up to fix issues left behind by the greedy Developer who long ago put the areas north of CR 466 – and sadly, the amenity-paying residents who live there – in his rearview mirror as he chased the almighty dollar south into Sumter County.
Stay tuned, because dog owners are a passionate group and this Developer-created nightmare is far from over.