The following article by Nick Halter was published in the April 4, 2011 issue of the Southwest Journal:
DOG PARK SITE REMAINS CONTENTIOUS
A group of stakeholders began meeting in March in an effort to find the best site for a dog park in Southwest.
Their first two meetings revealed a divided group. Many of them want to throw out some or all of the three sites that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board gave them to choose from.
The Citizens Advisory Committee of about 20 members spent much of the first two meetings debating processes, such as how to vote on matters, who should be on the committee and whether or not to trust the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to give the group accurate information.
Park Board President John Erwin said his goal is still the same as when he voted to form the advisory committee: To have a dog park in the Park Board’s Sixth District this summer.
But that may be difficult, because many members of the committee have made it clear they want at least two of the sites eliminated from consideration. The third remaining site would require the Park Board to tear up a parking lot in order to build the off-leash dog area.
The advisory committee is scheduled to continue meetings until at least May 16, after which they could give the Park Board a recommendation on a site.
The first two sites — both at Lyndale Park on the Northeast side of Lake Harriet — are near the Roberts Bird Sanctuary and local Audubon groups say the presence of dogs will scare off migrating birds. One of those two sites is directly in between the Peace Garden and a trial garden, and park users say barking canines will disrupt an area that people go to for its peace and tranquility.
The third site is a few blocks north, at Lyndale Farmstead Park, in what is now a parking lot for a Park Board operation center. It’s behind a concrete wall and would wrap around a small pond (the Park Board has increased the size of the site from a half acre to 2 acres).
Committee member Jonathan Lee tried to remove all three sites from consideration, but the committee narrowly voted against eliminating any of the sites on a 10–9 vote.
Lee, who over the last several months fought unsuccessfully for a dog park at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, said the Park Board did not provide sufficient sites, and that the group should widen its search to the entire Sixth District, which stretches west of I-35W and south of Lake Street.
Many at the meeting agreed some or all of the sites were bad choices, though others argued that each one deserved to be discussed before being eliminated.
“The Park Board has done us a disservice by limiting us to three sites,” said member Matt Perry, who suggested that the Park Board provide more options.
The first meeting, on March 21, drew a crowd of about 75, most of which opposed two or three of the sites. The second meeting attracted about 25 people.
However, a few attendees at both meetings have expressed support of a dog park in at least one of the areas. Others said they wish the Park Board would consider a site closer to 35W so it could serve neighborhoods east of the freeway.
The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 11. The meeting place has not been finalized. Visit http://www.minneapolisparks.org closer to April 11.