Keene to host public forum on plans for dog park, disc golf at Wheelock campsite

·3 min read

Jul. 13—Plans are progressing for a dog park and disc-golf course at Keene's Wheelock Park, and the city plans to hold a public forum later this month to unveil a conceptual draft for the project and answer questions from the public.

The meeting, scheduled for July 26, will be an opportunity for the community to share ideas and walk the site of the proposed changes, according to a news release from the city's parks, recreation and facilities department.

The former campsite, which closed to camping in 2018, has long been eyed by locals as an ideal location for a dog park, which Keene currently doesn't have. Meanwhile, members of the Keene Disc Golf Club have sought the space for a second disc-golf course that would be more user-friendly than the organization's existing course at Otter Brook State Park. Disc golf is a game in which a plastic disc is thrown into a series of metal baskets on an outdoor course.

Both groups first presented their plans to City Council in October, and councilors gave them the green light in April, when they approved spending nearly $30,000 to hire a company to produce design and feasibility plans for both options.

According to the news release, the city hired DuBois and King, a Bedford consulting firm, to facilitate a concept plan with the purpose of understanding community needs and mapping out the required space for both amenities to be included.

Prior to the city's OK for the dual dog park-disc golf plan, others had suggested using the location as a campsite for people experiencing homelessness.

In March, City Councilors Bobby Williams, Bryan Lake and Catherine Workman wrote a letter to the council, which included an idea for a camping area to reduce "harms associated with houselessness."

The following week, dozens had attended a city council meeting, calling for action on homelessness, and several recommended using Wheelock Park as a designated campsite.

At the council meeting where the city approved the new plans for Wheelock, Williams unsuccessfully proposed delaying the plans until the campground could be assessed as a possibility by the housing stability committee, which was appointed at that meeting.

The ad hoc housing stability committee includes representatives from local and regional organizations, including Southwestern Community Services, the Cheshire County Department of Corrections, and the city's human services department.

Since its first meeting in May, the 10-person group has discussed ideas including modifying city codes to allow for additional units or dwellings on residential properties and improving downtown access to public bathrooms as possibilities to help people experiencing homelessness in Keene.

The forum is slated for Tuesday, July 26 at 6 p.m. in the Horseshoe Pavilion at the rear of Wheelock Park, off of Park Avenue. Anyone looking for more information on the project can call Andy Bohannon, the city parks and recreation director, at 357-9829.

Hunter Oberst can be reached at 355-8585, or hoberst@keenesentinel.com.