By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Trish Zecca and her dog, Rosie, get their exercise in the summer by walking along the streets and sidewalks in Sea Isle City.
“We walk all around Sea Isle. We also take her to other places where people are allowed to have dogs and socialize them,” Zecca said, mentioning outdoor restaurants at the shore that are pet-friendly.
Although summer is a great time for Sea Isle’s human vacationers, dogs are banned from the beaches and oceanfront Promenade during the tourism season, making it difficult for the four-legged residents and visitors to run and play in some wide-open spaces.
But the city took a big step Wednesday toward giving Rosie and other canines their exclusive, year-round playground by opening construction bids for an eagerly awaited dog park expected to be ready in 2024.
Fred M. Schiavone Construction Inc., of Malaga, N.J., submitted the apparent low bid of $967,931 among four contractors competing for the project. Bids will be thoroughly reviewed by Sea Isle officials before City Council formally awards the contract, likely in September.
Andrew Previti, the city engineer, said construction is likely to begin in the fall, then take a break over the winter and resume next spring. He expressed hope that the project will be completed by next summer, just in time for the bustling tourism season.
Knowing that many families choose their vacation destination based on its pet-friendly reputation, Sea Isle has been looking to build its first dog park for at least four years.
“Considering the fact that many residents and visitors in Sea Isle City are dog owners, which we see throughout the year with people walking dogs, especially in the summertime, we’re confident that the facility will get a great amount of use,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
A communitywide survey conducted in 2015 included responses from local residents urging the city to create more recreation attractions, including a dog park. About 40 percent of the approximately 3,000 respondents to the survey supported a dog park.
The dog park’s proposed location is in the north end of Sea Isle on Landis Avenue near Seventh Street.
The project would be built in a secluded area away from residential neighborhoods, so homeowners will not be disturbed by barking or other noise.
Parking was another consideration why the city decided to build the dog park on Landis Avenue near Seventh Street. Two new parking lots were built in the same area in 2019 as part of a restriping plan to make the Landis Avenue corridor safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Pet owners using the dog park will be able to use the same parking lots.
“With all the parking there, we’re anticipating it will get a lot of use,” Custer said of the dog park.
During the quiet offseason months, the city lifts its ban of dogs on the beaches, giving canines and their owners a chance to get out and frolic on the wide-open shoreline.
But come summer, the vacationers take over the beaches and dogs lose their sandy playground. Without a place to call their own, dogs and their owners usually are out walking along the streets and sidewalks in the summer for exercise.
Trish Zecca and Rosie were taking a walk Wednesday on the sidewalk along Sounds Avenue between 58th and 59th streets, close to the city’s Dealy Field recreation complex.
Zecca was elated to hear that the city opened bids for the project and is preparing to start construction in the fall.
“Awesome. I hope that the people are supportive. We would definitely go to it,” she said of taking Rosie, an 18-month-old mixed breed, to the dog park when it opens.
However, she would prefer that the city build two dog parks – one for the northern part of Sea Isle and another in the south end – for greater convenience.
“It would be nice to have two dog parks in town,” said Zecca, who lives in Thornton, Pa., and is a summer vacationer in Sea Isle.
Among the dog-friendly amenities for the new park, there will be doggy obstacles, water fountains, two pavilions to provide shade and double-gated entryways to provide a safe, fenced-in environment for all of the canines.
The park will be configured to have a section for small dogs and a separate area for larger dogs.
While the focus will be on the dogs, a 24-foot-by-30-foot shade pavilion will be placed next door to the park to give the human visitors refuge from the sun and heat.
“The added pavilion will be one more feature that people can enjoy,” Custer said.
Sea Isle is teaming up with the Cape May County Open Space Review Board for the project. Earlier, the city won approval for a $996,000 county open space grant to fund the dog park.
Custer said the county has expressed great interest in the project since it was conceived and has joined with Sea Isle in believing that the dog park will receive a lot of use.
“We’re very grateful that we can partner with them to make this a reality,” Custer said.
Sea Isle will pay for the project upfront and will then be reimbursed by the county for the cost, Previti explained.
The apparent low bid of $967,931 submitted by Fred M. Schiavone Construction was “very competitive” and is significantly lower than the city engineer’s prebid estimate of $1.1 million for the project, Previti said.
The four competitive bids submitted by contractors ranged from a low of $967,931 to a high of nearly $1.3 million.