Park Board Commissioners Weigh in On 6th District Dog Park Dilemma
Citizen group working hard to give recommendation, but it won't be binding.
Will there ever be an off-leash area in the Sixth Park District?
It’s an amenity that dog owners have been rallying for over 10 years. Since 2001, Minneapolis has added off-leash areas to every park district in the city with the exception of the Sixth District. In 2001, a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) conducted search for sites, providing a ranked list to the park board commissioners, who ended up not choosing a site, according to Jean Johnson, who served on that CAC and the current CAC that’s charged with the task of finally finding a dog part that will work for the area.
A Grueling Process
It’s been an emotional ride, especially for residents.
First, the initial site at Dr. Martin Luther King Park was eliminated, due to objections from the African American Community. Then, two of the sites that the CAC were charged with evaluating were dropped from consideration, because of objections from neighbors and nature enthusiasts who didn’t want to see areas near the Bird Sanctuary and Peace Garden disrupted. Over months of work, the CAC looked at many sights within the 6th district, finally narrowing them down to three sites- two at Lyndale Farmstead Park and one by Minnehaha Creek, and for each of those, there has been neighborhood opposition.
“Maybe this will make people understand why it took us 12 years,” Park Board Commissioner Annie Young said.
The problem, she says, is that there is not enough space.
“There’s a lot of high density,” she said. She notes that the CAC has done “a fabulous job,” so far, and awaits their recommendation before making a decision.
Lyndale Farmstead Park The "Path Of Least Resistance"
The site with the least opposition to it this round is the Operations Center parking lot at Lyndale Farmstead Park, perhaps because there are less people that use the area, and less people that live across the street than the other two proposed sites.
“Community-wise, it’s the path of least resistance,” said Park Board Commissioner Brad Bourn, who serves the Sixth District, of the operation parking lot site.
Bourn said the added expense of the Operations Center parking lot site ($87,000) could be funded not only from the $32,500 already allocated but also from future income from dog licenses. He cited research that shows the neighborhood has a high percentage of dog owners but a low percentage of licensed dog owners. In all likelihood, if there’s an off-leash area in the neighborhood, there would be more incentive for the dog owners to obtain licenses, he reasons.
Commissioners Won't Say How They'll Vote
Commissioner Bob Fine said he doesn’t feel comfortable weighing in until the CAC reaches a decision, but he has major concerns that all of the top three sites exceed the allotted budget. He’s also wary of the parking lot site.
“I wonder if that’s really a good site in the first place,” he said.
It’s not a grassy area, there’s no shade, and he wonders if the staff really thinks it’s a good idea to give up that parking lot.
“The whole thing needs further investigation,” he said.
However, he sees downsides to the other Lyndale Farmstead Park site, given its historic nature.
“The problem is putting a dog park into areas that are already developed,” he said. “Wherever you go- sites aren’t easy. There are a lot of things to consider.”
Park Board Chair John Ervin also was hesitant to say which site he would eventually vote for. Once the CAC has made their recommendation, there will be a bidding process, some modification, and the park board will have their own public hearing, he said. Also, before the issue reaches the full board, it will have to go through the planning committee.
“That may narrow things,” he said. “It depends.”
Commissioner Scott Vreeland noted that the site impacting the least number people (the Operations Parking Lot Site) affects the most number of employees, and some "are not thrilled" by that option. Like the other commissioners, Vreeland is wary of lending his opinion before the CAC reaches their decision.
Vreeland did note that there is a small area in his own District Three that’s between 24th Street and the pedestrian overpraises of 35W: a small triangle of MnDOT land that they could lease to the park board, which he says his constituents seem positive about.
“Do we need more choices?” Vreeland asks. “There’s not an ideal solution. We’re picking the best of choices that are not perfect.”