Among the many obstacles, I understand that the budget for the neighborhood dog park program is extremely low. The number that I was quoted is barely enough to build a fence. Then of course there is the problem of convincing some neighborhood to host the first park of this kind before they have a chance to see how it will work.
With that in mind, I have been trying to think of solutions that might be workable in the near future. Here's one that I've come up with:
South Maple Park was originally chosen to be the pilot for a neighborhood dog park program. Apparently the community was in favor, the area is right, and parking is available. The problem is that the Utilities department maintains the area and wants to put a water tower there in the future. Naturally they don't want to get into a situation where they have to evict a dog park and look like the bad guys.
So why not consider putting up a temporary off-leash area on the South Maple site to serve as a functioning prototype for what is being proposed elsewhere. A relatively cheap fence could be used - Saline used a snow fence for it's temporary park when Mill Pond was being re-seeded last year. This park could be put up with the explicit understanding by all parties that it is a temporary solution that will be taken down once Swift Run is complete or when the water tower needs to go up (which I imagine will be long after Swift Run is open), or at some other time.
This provides a number of advantages:
- First and most importantly for me, it provides an immediate off-leash solution for those of us who want to play safely and legally this summer.
- Second, this is an area that meets the requirements set forth by the city and the neighborhood has already responded favorably to the idea of having a dog park, so the long meeting process could be avoided.
- Third, the explicit understanding that it is a temporary solution should soothe the Utility department's concerns about having to close something down in the future. Being temporary also means that neighbors who may still be unsure won't be committed to a forever change.
- Fourth, this provides the city a living laboratory to test its ideas of how a dog park should look, what kinds of rules would be necessary, any problems or benefits that will come to the neighborhood, etc. It also provides a model for the residents of other neighborhoods to look to when considering whether to host a permanent off-leash park.
- Finally, this plan is rather inexpensive. The temporary fence could be put up at a fraction of the cost of a permanent chain link structure. Even the low pilot budget should be able to handle this plan including mowing, a couple of trash cans, and a sign with rules.
I don't like the idea of a temporary solution as much as a permanent one for obvious reasons - it would be too easy for the end of the temporary period to come and nothing to replace it. I also think the city has had more than ample time to implement something permanent. But I am realistic. A temporary solution either at South Maple or somewhere else (a small, surficial fence on part of the Swift Run site? a temp fence at Ward?) would relieve some of the pressure that we are currently feeling and actually provide the city with a way to step into its role as dog-park manager slowly rather than all at once.
I am forwarding this idea to the relevant people at City Hall and I hope that they are interested in moving quickly on something like this. Be assured that I will share whatever response I get.