PAXTON — Angie Russell and her husband, Jon, work in Urbana, so they regularly take their two dogs to exercise at the dog park there, about 27 miles from their home in Paxton.
But if it was up to the Russells, their twice-a-week trips to Urbana with their 2-year-old American fox hound mixes, Rascal and Lily, would be replaced by daily trips to a dog park in Paxton.
"Everyone's excited about it," Angie Russell said about the idea of opening a dog park in Paxton.
The Russells, along with Patty Johnson, owner of Animal House pet salon on Market Street, have already gotten approval from the city council to move forward with their plan to open a 1-acre dog park near Interstate 57 on the city's long-closed landfill property just west of the Paxton airport.
But the project has yet to become reality because the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has yet to approve it.
Mayor Bill Ingold said the IEPA needs to sign off on the project because of the presence of 2 feet of compacted clay that serves as a "cap" for the former landfill, and the need to drill holes in the ground to install fencing at the site.
The landfill, closed for more than 15 years, is capped officially and properly, but the site is still being monitored for methane gas. Ingold said the city is particularly concerned about disturbing the clay cap on the south end of the property, where it appears posts may have to be installed where two landfill trenches are located.
"We have to be cautious when we drill posts into the ground on the south end," Ingold said, "because it may get into where the trench was, and we don't want to do that."
Meanwhile, the east, west and north ends of the park are far enough away from the trenches that no disturbance of the cap is expected, Ingold said.
The city's engineer, Michael Streff, has been awaiting word from the IEPA on whether the city can move forward with the dog park, Ingold said.
"The council supports" the project, Ingold said, noting that citizens "really don't have any other options for places we can go" in Paxton to walk dogs without a leash.
If plans fall through, there might be other places that a dog park could be set up. Johnson, who also is helping organize the dog park with the Russells, said she thinks Coady Park and Bixby Park, both located on Paxton's east side, would be ideal alternative sites.
Angie Russell said she has no preference on where the dog park ends up.
"The park district (grounds) would be great," she said. "If they can do it by the airport, that would be great. "
Russell said she thinks the dog park would be well-used. There are more than 1,200 dogs registered in Paxton, she said.
The dog park would be a large, fenced-in area where dogs could run off-leash while their owners socialize with other dog lovers. A group of Paxton residents — including the Russells, Johnson, Bob and Joy Jones and Janessa Janssen — would build and maintain it.
At the dog park, owners would be responsible for picking up after their dogs and making sure their dogs are current on all vaccinations.
Tentatively, the dog park would be open from dawn until dusk each day, with committee members monitoring in the mornings and evenings to en- sure the grounds are kept clean.
A membership fee would be charged annually — or a $5 nonmember fee per visit — with all revenue going back into a fund that is used to help beautify the park.