Monday was the first meeting of the Citizen Advisory Committee that will help decide where the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board locates an off-leash dog park in Southwest Minneapolis.
Despite the fact that the controversial King Park location is off the table, the issue continues to be divisive as neighbors living near the three proposed sites expressed concerns about parking, increased traffic and proximity to the Peace Garden and Bird Sanctuary.
Where are the proposed parks?
Jennifer Ringold, city planner for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board outlined the under consideration. The Peace Garden location is bordered on the North by Lakewood Cemetery and on the West by Roberts Bird Sanctuary, 1.13 acres in size. The second location is just South of the first, where a parking lot primarily used by park staff currently resides, .91 acres in size. The third site, near the Southside Operations Center, has recently been expanded to include 2.05 acres, though some of the area includes water, which would not be useable.
The three sites were chosen within a service area of the 6th Park District bounded by I-35, Minnehaha Creek, Humboldt Avenue and the edge of the Roberts Bird Sanctuary. The service area was determined based on the voiced need from Kingfield neighborhood residents to have a dog park in that area, she said.
Advisory committee expanded to 27 possible members
Some people attending Tuesday’s meeting raised concerns that not all vested interests were at the table. At the beginning of the meeting, the CAC consisted of 19 members (although not all members were present and representatives from the Peace Garden and from the Latino Community have yet to be appointed).
Several CAC members suggested the discussion be opened up to the very full room of attending community members. At that point, a number of community members expressed concerns about representation for Linden Hills neighborhood, which is close to all three sites and has partnered with East Harriet and the Audubon Society over issues surrounding the bird sanctuary's revitalization. There were also community members that stated that neighborhoods from the eastern side of I-35 needed inclusion because they've been active in the dog park issue all along.
Jonathan Lee, who was appointed to the commission by the Kingfield Dog Park Task Force, questioned why there needed to be a Latino representative if East African and Hmong communities were not also represented. Park Board President John Erwin responded that it was decided to have a Latino representative when King park was under consideration, because so many Latino residents use that park.
In the end, it was decided to add two members from Linden Hills to the CAC, two members total from the Regina, Field, Bryant and Central Neighborhoods, and to offer invitations to the Hmong, East African and African-American communities to see if they were interested, and if they were to offer them a spot. It also includes a representative from the trail garden. If all invitations are accepted, the membership for the CAC will be up to 27 people.
Committee members expect "contentious issues"
After the discussion of the committee's membership, the committee debated whether to reach decisions by vote or by consensus.
Matt Perry, who was appointed by park board Commissioner Bob Fine, suggested consensus was preferable, although it took longer. Consensus doesn’t mean unanimous, Perry said, it means that even if the minority view was voted down, there would be an effort to reach a creative solution. “If done well, it allows for minority positions to be heard,” Perry said.
Lisa McDonald broke into tears as she spoke of the challenges faced by the committee — she'd previously served on another difficult committee. “We know there are going to be some contentious issues,” McDonald said. “Given that we have been given a time frame, an up or down vote gets us there faster.” Though consensus is “hip,” McDonald said, it sometimes allows for the loudest voice to win.
The advisory committee decided against the consensus model.
A number of East Harriet residents also testified about locating the proposed dog park in their neighborhood — most of them opposed the park. Although a young man said he looked forward to it because it offered opportunities to socialize with other dog lovers.
Lucy Rollins, a young mother, said that she often takes her young children to the Peace Garden and Rose gardens, where the children learn about nature. “Those gardens are a gem to my family," Rollins said. "They are a sanctuary to our hearts and love.” Rollins didn't want to see a dog park disrupt her sanctuary.
The next citizen advisory committee is March 28, 6:30 p.m., at Lynnhurst Recreation Center.