The 6th District Dog Park Citizen Advisory Council finally reached an agreement on Monday night about which of the they would recommend to the park board. The group voted to recommend site 32, located within the Operations Center parking lot, and Site 1, also at Lyndale Farmstead Park, as a backup site.
The CAC unanimously voted against the Minnehaha Creek, which many dog park boosters at the meeting opposed, and voting nearly unanimously in favor of the Operations Center site. Finally, the CAC also voted to recommend to the park board that they endeavor to create a citizen- based body that recommends a master plan for off leash recreation areas with consideration to include citizens.
The one dissenting vote against the operations center site, Matt Perry, said he voted against Site 32 because he “did not want to pick the best of the worst.”
He said he has major concerns about the “exorbitant costs” of all of the sites, particular in the current financial climate for municipalities. Despite the roughly $250,000 generated each year from dog licensures, he said, he has concerns about showing the costs of the dog park to tax payers.
According information provided at the meeting, a bare-bones design for site 32 would cost $96,210. That includes $13,560 of “learnable elements” (costs that the park board has learned are needed for dog parks) and “site specific” elements that tack on another $55,350.
Initially, the CAC voted against Site 1, but in the end voted to keep it as a backup choice, in case for some reason the park board finds a problem with Site 32. Perry said he was against this decision. His experience with the park board is that it is better to submit recommendations with a singular voice, as it holds more weight.
One poignant speech in the meeting came from Ben Harris, who announced that his dog died at a dog park on Sunday, “doing exactly what he liked,” Harris said. Harris related how four or five strangers carried his dog a quarter of a mile away.
“I’ve been very fortunate in getting to know my neighbors,” he said of his time spent in dog parks. “I’ve spent birthdays and holidays with people I know only through dog parks. Real community happens in dog parks.”
The last part of the CAC’s recommendation will include a request, proposed by Matt Perry and approved by consensus by the CAC, that the park board create a citizen based body to create a master plan any future dog park sites.
CAC member Jean Johnson, who also served on 2002 dog park CAC, encouraged members to participate, even as citizens, in the broader process, so that any new citizen body doesn’t have to “recreate the wheel”.