Park Board president on dog park issues

The following letter by MPRB President John Erwin was printed in the April 4, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:

Park Board president on dog park issues

I want to take a moment to clarify some key points related to concerns about the establishment of a 6th District Dog Park. Those key points are:

1. Many dog owners in the 6th Park District expressed a desire to have a local dog park. I note that dog parks are now self-sustaining through use permit fees. In 2000, a Citizens Advisory Committee evaluated over 40 possible dog park sites in the area with much controversy and, ultimately, none was selected. Yet, the need for a dog park in this area has grown. The Park Board would like to fulfill that need.

2. The three sites being considered were thoughtfully identified. It has become obvious over the past 10 years that all neighborhood parks in this area are highly used and adding a dog park would displace a valued activity. Therefore, we identified new sites not in neighborhood parks that were not evaluated by the previous Citizens Advisory Committee. Two of the three sites are currently non-public underutilized Park Board parking lots; establishment of a dog park on parking lots would likely ‘green’ those sites to some degree. Those sites are:

A site over 50 feet outside the Robert’s Bird Sanctuary that is an existing non-public Park Board Operations parking lot for cars, trucks, and tractors across from the rose garden.

A wooded site outside the Bird Sanctuary that is in an area with problems related to misconduct that would benefit from more use.

A site in an underutilized non-public Park Board parking lot at the 38th Street Operations Center.

3. The Park Board would like to hear the views of local residents about each site. Because of this, we established a Citizens Advisory Committee to help with that process and get as much input as possible to select the best site.

4. This Park Board is actively, and dramatically, increasing wildlife and bird habitat citywide. We are planting 5,500 street trees this year (as last year), we are planting more than 4,000 shrubs/perennials for the first time to reduce mowing and increase habitat, we are conducting a vegetative management plan for Robert’s Bird Sanctuary to increase bird habitat, and we are looking into planting native plantings in groupings in edge areas by Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet and the Minnehaha Creek to increase wildlife habitat.

In closing, I look forward to hearing the thoughts of residents who live near the proposed dog park sites. I am confident that we will identify an acceptable site with minimal or no adverse environmental impacts and fulfill a long-standing desire of many local dog owners to have a dog park in the 6th Park District.

— John Erwin, dog owner, bird lover, biologist and Sierra Club endorsed, Citywide Commissioner and Park Board President