picture – Scott Shaw, The Plain Dealer
Story – Everdeen Mason, The Plain Dealer
LAKEWOOD, Ohio — One day lawyers were yapping at one another. The next day, all involved were well-behaved. And why not? They all got to listen as a judge watched 40 minutes of dog-barking video clips. The battle over the Lakewood Dog Park is quite a tale to tell.
The park has sparked a three-year tug-of-war between Rocky River and Lakewood. Lakewood built the park in a valley separating the cities. Unleashed dogs roam in a fenced-in area — 400 feet from High Parkway Drive in Rocky River. The closest Lakewood home is 1,000 feet away, said Mike O’Shea, Rocky River assistant law director.
Rocky River residents who live atop the valley contend they bear the brunt of the noise from the popular retreat. City officials took up their plea to have the park closed. The trial began last week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. It will spill into next week.
“I’m just interested in trying to save our neighborhood and property values,” testified Carol Buddie, of Rocky River, on Thursday.
It was Buddie who supplied the video clips that Judge Carolyn Friedland and lawyers viewed in court. Spectators listened intently, gauging the frequency and volume of the barks to see which side would benefit from the clips.
It was quite a change from the previous days, when the courtroom was enlivened as opposing lawyers sparred, sometimes loudly, over the finer points of law.
So far, only people against the park have testified.
“When a dog barks, you hear it,” said Tim Merriman, of High Parkway, a witness early in the trial. He told The Plain Dealer, “It’s an incessant, piercing, bothersome noise.”
The Rocky River witnesses “are emotionally driven, so it’s hard for them to be objective,” said Kent Cicerchi, co-chairman of Save the Dog Park Committee. “The people who testified are so angry.”
The lawsuit against Lakewood was first filed in 2007, but was dismissed when Friedland said Rocky River could not interfere with the operation of a municipal facility in another community. An appeal returned the case to Friedland. She is hearing the trial without a jury.
Lakewood has offered to build a sound barrier and control the number of dogs in the park. Rocky River officials have suggested that dogs in the park be muzzled. A compromise was never reached.
Park supporters say that many more people benefit and love the park than those who are bothered by it.
“There are a handful of residents on one side, and thousands who use and enjoy the park,” Karen Karp said.
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