The following article by Sheila Regan was published online in the July 26, 2011 issue of the Southwest Minneapolis Patch:
NEIGHBORS WEIGH IN ON FINAL THREE DOG PARK SITES
Neighbors of the 6th District showed up with their kids in tow for the Monday’s 6th District Dog Park Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting at Lynnhurst Park, which invited the public to share their comments and perspectives.
Many Tangletown residents showed up to voice opposition to a potential location along Minnehaha creek, citing problems of traffic congestion and attachment to the current landscape. Their concerns were echoed by opponents of other dog park sites.
It was the 10th meeting of the CAC, which has been meeting since March. After eliminating two of the sites originally under consideration (one near the Bird Sanctuary, the other near the Peace Garden), the CAC came up with a list of 30 sites using input from the community as well as sites that were looked at the last time the 6th District considered putting a dog park into the area. This summer, they’ve whittled that list down to three sites, including two at Lyndale Farmstead Park and one at Minnehaha Parkway and Pleasant Ave.
The three sites up for community review all fall into the service area between 36th Street and Minnehaha Creek and between 35 W and Lake Harriet.
The three sites include two at Lyndale Farmstead Park. The first site, South of the Operations Center along Kings Highway (site 1), has as its northern boundary the operations center wall and would be within the turf and tree area along Kings Highway. This site would be west of the path that runs diagonally from the athletic fields to the southwest corner of the park behind the Theodore Wirth Home and Administration Building. Site 32, at the Southside Operations Center, is within the Center’s parking lot, but would not include the stormwater pond.
The last of the three sites is along the South Side of Minnehaha Creek east of Pleasant Ave. South (Site 7). This side extends from Pleasant Avenue east to the base of the hill where Minnehaha Parkways splits. The trail within this area would be realigned as part of the project to allow for continuous trail use outside of the proposed site.
All three sites are each around an acre in size, according to Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board planner Jennifer Ringhold.
Mark Ruhly, one of the original Kingfield Dog Park Task Members, a group that organized to ask for a dog park in the area, said he could be supportive of the Operations Center site, but was also concerned about the threat to dogs and their owners from pollution. He wondered if there could be a hybrid of the two Lyndale Farmstead sites.
The most neighbors that spoke at Monday’s meeting were from the Tangletown area, and most of them were against the site at Minnehaha Creek.
Steve Kenny, who lives on Pleasant Avenue, said he’s watched cars slide down the hill.
“I can’t imagine people walking,” he said.
John Peterson, a resident of Tangletown, said he was drawn to the neighborhood because of the serene park space, and that a dog park disrupts the area’s aesthetics.
“The creek is a very valuable part of my day to day life,” he said. “The dog park would eliminate the type of use that I have.”
Devin Thomas spoke in minority, in favor of the location.
“Parks are for everybody, even people with dogs,” he said.
He noted that he wouldn’t take his dog to the operations center site, because of the pollution problems.
Jessie Bacar, who lives across the street from the Minnehaha Creek site, stated that she, along with her neighbors, brought their children to the meeting. The increased increased traffic a dog park would bring made the Creek site a non-starter with her.
“Pleasant Avenue is already a narrow street,” she said. “It’s a one-way thoroughfare.”
She claimed that the street does not support more than 7 parking spots.
“When we have family gatherings,” she said, “we can fit no more than a few cars.”
Further, Bacar was concerned about safety issues raised by the increased traffic, particularly with all the children in the neighborhood.
“My children come before my dog,” she said.
Tangletown resident Kay McGuire said that, in winter, snow banks pose a problem for walkers in the area. The large snow piles created by plows made it impossible to walk over with a dog, she said.
Dave Davenport voiced concerned about the fate of existing trees, landscapes, and paths.
“If you start moving the bike path and cutting the space in half, you are going to have to clear some trees. That’s a huge concern for us,” he said. “Please don’t clear the bike path.”
Chris Romans, also a biker, admitted almost knocking someone over and almost being knocked over himself on the two hills by the site. The increased foot (and paw) traffic would increase the danger, he said.
“I think this site would be really dangerous,” he said.
A few neighbors spoke favorably of Site 1, praising its proximity to their homes, but they were met with other neighbors’ concerns with parking issues and the safety issues due to increased car traffic.
Melissa Witler, a resident of Lyndale neighborhood, noted that she would be able to walk to the site, thereby not contributing to traffic congestion.
Bob Scheutte, who lives on 39th and Aldrich, a block away from park spoke against the site. Not a dog owner, or dog lover, he takes his grandson frequently to the park, taking the diagonal path to the rose gardens. He noted that just as someone said it would be terrible to bike past a dog park, it would also be terrible to walk past one.
With this wide range of community reactions, Sarah Dunaway, from Kingfield, encouraged the CAC to think of creative solutions to mitigate the many neighborhood issues raised at the hearing.
“Every piece of grass is beloved by neighbors,” she said.
Dunaway said she was not part of the grassroots organizing that occurred in Kingfield expressing a need for a dog park, but she said she was supportive of it.
The next CAC meeting will be on August 15 an Lynnhurst from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Residents have until Friday to fill out the survey about the dog parks.