It’s been five years since Lakewood dog owners persuaded the city to open a dog park on land in the Metroparks along the banks of the Rocky River. It’s a joyful place where big-city doggies can run and play in a world free of concrete and leashes. Dogs sniff other dogs, and their humans do the same.
But not everyone lapped it up: A handful of Rocky River residents whose homes overlook the park from the valley’s opposite edge claimed that incessant barking was a nuisance at all hours of the day. They inspired Rocky River to sue Lakewood on their behalf. The case was dismissed after sound testing revealed that passing trucks — not barking mutts — were the source of the loudest noise. The din recorded didn’t rival either city’s noise-ordinance thresholds.
But after a successful appeal, Rocky River’s complaint has not only been refiled, but is now occupying a courtroom staff that might otherwise be free to handle worthwhile material. In March, Rocky River residents opposed to the suit point out that the city had blown nearly $18,000 on legal fees even prior to the case going forward. A couple weeks of litigation won’t ease that figure.
At trial, the loudest barking so far has been over whether Lakewood attorneys should have access to one witness’ journal, which she said she had kept to prove that she wasn’t exaggerating the detrimental impact Lakewood’s park was having on her peaceful existence. Her first entry noted that she was “not obsessed” with the barking dogs. Testimony revealed that she finds train whistles soothing and passing vehicles merely part of the neighborhood’s ambient noise, though yelping Shih Tzus are the devil’s foot soldiers.
“There’s a discrepancy about whether it was just the dog park that has frustrated the complaining residents,” says Kent Cicerchi, co-chair of the Save Lakewood Dog Park Committee.
Also at issue is how people so averse to noise came to make their residences in a city, a place commonly noted for having a tendency to emit more sound than your garden-variety parcel of land. On Wednesday, July 21, the court heard testimony from the company both cities hired to do sound testing. Stay tuned for further developments in what is shaping up to be the most engaging misuse of funds in Rocky River history. Woof. — Michael Gill