Dog lovers in Boyertown have banded together to start work on an off-leash dog park.

The group, calling itself Boyertown Area Responsible Canine Owners, or BARCO, was formed in October.

Founder Vicki A. Marsh estimates that it could take three years of planning before a dog park opens in the borough. Marsh and other members made their case to Boyertown Borough Council at a recent meeting.

The group is researching potential locations and considering nonprofit status. Members also are examining other dog parks to learn what has made them successful and what elements could be improved.

"I think it's pretty clear we're hearing a lot of people say they would love to have a safe place for their pets to socialize and to exercise," said Linda Flederbach, BARCO member and owner of Joe Paws Dog Bakery in Boyertown.

Flederbach said that about 18 dog owners typically attend BARCO's monthly meetings.

"We're just in the very beginning of the planning process," she said. "We really want to do our homework and make sure we have all of the questions people might have answered."

Flederbach added that the group also wants to combat any negative perceptions people might hold about off-leash dog parks, such as that they are not maintained, or that they're dirty or unsafe for animals.

Boyertown's dog park would have benches and water fountains, possibly a card-entry system to minimize vandalism and would be kept clean by BARCO members and volunteers, the group told council.

The cost, estimated at up to $50,000, would be covered by fundraisers and memberships.

After the presentation, council advised BARCO members to return after they obtained nonprofit status, said Borough Manager Patricia A. Loder.

"They didn't really offer an opinion one way or the other," Loder said of council.

Besides the Boyertown Community Park on South Madison Street, there isn't a lot of space for a dog park in the borough, Loder noted.

Up until 2010, the park ordinance banned dogs from the community park. However, the current ordinance allows dogs if they are leashed.

Though BARCO has not yet identified a location for its park, Flederbach said that ideally the group would like it to be within the borough.

"We want to encourage people to come downtown to do commerce, to walk the borough," she said. "There's lots of beautiful things. It would be nice if people could walk out of their homes and go to the dog park."

Contact Kate Wilcox: 610-371-5015 or kwilcox@readingeagle.com.