Loring Theme Park?

On Wednesday, January 17, the Minneapolis Park Board will meet to, among other things, finalize plans for an off-leash dog enclosure in Loring Park.

Such an enclosure will introduce noise, dust and unpleasant odors to one of the park’s last remaining quiet spaces.

Ward 7 Council Member, Lisa Goodman, said many Loring neighborhood sites were considered but that area residents indicated, “they want [the dog enclosure] as part of the park itself, not across the street from residents.”

I wonder why the residents that she contacted said they don’t want the enclosure across from their homes. Could it be for some of the same reasons that many of us oppose an enclosure in the park?

Minneapolis Park Board President, Jon Olson, correctly pointed out at the December 6 park board meeting, that Loring Park is not just a neighborhood park, but also a regional park. As such, the board needs to look beyond the wishes of some residents.

One dog enclosure supporter – journalist, Jon Tevlin – wrote the following on the Minneapolis Star Tribune blog, buzz.mn:

“Most people put their dogs in cars and drive around Lake of the Isles to the nearest dog park. A dog park would bring a lot more people to Loring more regularly, making the park safer.”

Assuming that downtown dog owners already use the park, what we’re looking at is more drive-in traffic. I don’t find the prospect of increased traffic at all reassuring. The north side of Loring Park is bursting at the seams with cars looking for places to park. During the day, MCTC students occupy every available parking space along Harmon Place. Then, at about the time they’re leaving, restaurant and bar patrons start filling them in. I’ve been over there for 15 years and I can tell you that there is no time – save holidays and pre dawn – when parking is not a problem. And the problem has gotten worse, not better, over the years.

On their web site, “Dog Grounds” – the non-profit organization responsible for creating and maintaining the enclosure — describes a “vehicle access gate ten-feet wide for maintenance trucks and lawn mowing machines to enter.” So, if they do a decent job of maintenance, we can expect regular maintenance-truck and lawn-mowing machine traffic to go along with the noise, dust, unpleasant odors and cars looking for a place to park.

Dog Grounds proposes to leave the grass in place in certain parts of the enclosure.

“By leaving the grass,” they say, “we preserve the maximum green space possible.” But “If the grass eventually fails, [which of course it will] the best alternative would be to replace it with artificial turf.”

The introduction of artificial turf will take Loring Park one step further from green space, and one step closer to theme park.

Since the board did, in fact, amended the Loring Park Master Plan to add an off-leash dog enclosure as appropriate land use, there’s no hope of keeping it out of the park entirely. But there is still hope that a better location within the park — one that is less disruptive to the environment, park visitors and Loring Corners business owners – can be identified.

The board will discuss and finalize plans for the dog enclosure at 5:30 on Wednesday, January 17, at MPRB Administrative Offices, 2117 West River Road, Minneapolis.

In Downtown Journal’s ‘First Annual Readers Raves and Picks’ (January 8), readers of the paper named Loring Park their favorite green space. I hope we can keep it that way.