Sunday, August 19, 2007

CSC Volunteer Meeting for the NEW DOG PARK

Late Edit: I forgot to list the location of the meeting. It will be at the Pavillion at Southeast Area Park - Southwest corner of Platt and Ellsworth. Thanks to kayla&mom for pointing out my omission.

I got an e-mail from the Canine Social Club this week inviting interested people to a meeting on Aug 23 to discuss volunteer monitors for Southeast Area and Olson Park dog runs when the open. I think the plan is to have people posted during busy times to help people figure out the rules and etiquette and to watch for potential problems. It will probably involve telling people where they can buy a permit and making sure that people pick up after their dogs.

Here is the full text of the e-mail:

www.CANINESOCIALCLUB.NET (See photos of Southeast Park -Temporary Swift Run Site)

Yes, it’s really happening! Dog parks are opening in Ann Arbor!!

As Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County open their first off-leash dog parks, the Canine Social Club has been asked to help ensure that the parks are successful. Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation officials are calling a meeting to coordinate volunteers to help monitor usage of the both the Southeast and Olsen dog parks during their initial phases. The meeting will be held Thursday August 23rd, 5:30 – 6:30.

What does monitoring mean? Really, it just means doing what we already do when we get our dogs together to play. We make sure poop gets scooped, and encourage owners to keep their dogs under reasonable control (curb aggressive behavior, etc.) Monitors will be needed during peak hours: before/after work and on weekends. The specifics of monitoring schedules and responsibilities will be discussed during the meeting.

If you are able to help, please reply to this email and attend the meeting on Thursday. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll be available, please attend the meeting to learn more about the parks, and what everyone can do to make them successful.

Thank you,

Canine Social Club

If you can make it, please do. Hopefully hall monitors won't be necessary once things get rolling, but we all have a stake in ensuring that the first off-leash areas in Ann Arbor open with minimal problems.

Light Posting

First let me apologize for my light and sporadic posting over the past month. I've been preparing for a new job so my attention is focused elsewhere.

That new job begins this week and I will probably be overwhelmed for the first couple of weeks. So unfortunately my posting schedule will probably be even more sporadic until I get in a groove. I'll try to keep on top of major developments, but I can't promise any consistency and I definitely won't be able to make most of the City Council or PAC meetings for a while.

Sorry about this, hopefully it won't be as overwhelming as I'm imagining right now. But I want to let you all know why I'm dropping off the radar for a while.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fee Structure

At last week's City Council meeting plans for four new off-leash areas were unanimously approved. The memo attached (PDF) to that resolution lays out the detailed plan including suggested fee structure.

The fee structure is on page 2 of the PDF. The rates are variable depending on two major factors 1) Swift Run only or all A2 off-leash areas; 2) Spayed/Neutered or intact.

For Swift Run only the rates are: $50 intact or $35 spayed/neutered
For all off-leash areas: $60 intact or $45 spayed/neutered

Those are rates for a single dog. Additional dogs will be charged as follows:

Swift Run only: $25/$15
All areas: $10/$5

So for example I have two fixed dogs and will be buying a permit for all city areas. That will be $45 for the first plus $5 for the second bringing my total to $50 annually.

As I understand it, the permitting will be handled through the city clerk's office and will require proof of vaccination, proper registration, and a signed agreement to follow off-leash area rules. A tag will be issued to each dog to serve as its permit and should be worn whenever in an off-leash area.

This is an interesting fee structure. It is about in the middle of what we have paid elsewhere to use public off-leash areas, those ranging from free to a little over $100 for two dogs. As I've said before, I'm in favor of a nominal fee to manage vaccination and safety concerns as long as dog owners are not being asked to pay all of the support costs in addition to the property taxes we already pay; dog runs should be managed just like other facilities. I would of course like to see these fees a little bit lower, but I think they are reasonable and from my discussions with Parks staff I don't believe that we are being asked to provide the bulk of operating costs.

The structuring of these fees around whether a dog is fixed or not is an interesting thing that I haven't seen elsewhere. I originally thought that it was a response to liability concerns - some parks do not allow unfixed males or females in heat inside at all. But what I have been told is that this is a response to requests by the Humane Society to encourage people to spay or neuter their dogs.

I know that will frustrate some people and I'm not honestly sure how effective it will be. Will someone who is not inclined to fix their dog decide to do so to save $15? I honestly can't say. At the risk of alienating some people though, I'll say that I think it's a good intent and fairly progressive for a city to encourage people to help reduce the stray population by giving a break to animals that have been spayed or neutered.

Whatever your position on that issue, it looks like this will be our fee structure for the first year of decriminalized off-leash play. The fee structure will be up for review annually and Parks staff have told me that they view this as very flexible in the coming years. Once this is in the works, you should feel free to offer constructive criticism. It sounds like the city will be quite receptive to suggestions.

NB - there is language in the memo I linked to above that suggests that hardship scholarships will be available for people who want to buy permits but cannot afford them. I don't know any details about that, but apparently they will be available.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Signs of Progress

I drove by Southeast Area Park while I was running errands today and I was pleasantly surprised to see that work has already begun on the temporary dog run. A (rather tall) chain link fence has been put up with a double gate entrance. It looks like most of the fence is up, but it isn't quite finished.

I assume there are other things that have to happen before it is opened - signage, trash cans, and permitting - and I have no idea how long that will take, but this is a very encouraging sign. Now that Parks staff have a green light to finish, it looks like it's actually going to happen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Election Results

Results of yesterday's primary are here.

Sabra Briere won the three-way challenge for an open seat in Ward 1.

Leigh Greden retained his seat in Ward 3.

Mike Anglin won against incumbent Wendy Woods in Ward 5.

Wards 2 and 4 were uncontested.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Voting Day

Don't forget to vote today if you are in Wards 1, 3, or 5.

Check out my posts of the past few weeks if you haven't been following and want some more info on the candidates.

BTW - lots to report from last night's Council meeting. Good stuff mostly. I'll get a report up today or tomorrow morning.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Council Candidate Survey Responses

Only a handful of the City Council Candidates responded to our survey. It was probably a bit late in the campaign season to send them out.

Responses can be found here.

Don't forget to vote tomorrow. Unless an independent registers between now and the general election in November, the results of tomorrow's primary will be final.

Brief candidate snapshots from the AA News are here.

More information on City elections can be found here. A map of Ward boundaries can be found here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Several Dog Park Items on Agenda for Council Meeting

City Council will finally discuss several dog park issues at their meeting tomorrow (Monday). The full council agenda with links to details about individual issues is available here.

PH4, B3, and DS2 all deal with tweaks to the ordinance change that passed this summer allowing the city to establish off-leash areas. Essentially they are changing the wording to allow Parks staff to approve dog run rules without Council approval.

PH5 and DS8 - "Approve Off-Leash Dog Play Areas at Swift Run Park, Southeast Area Park, Olson Park and Leslie Park and Establish User Fees for Off-Leash Dog Permits."
- Council will be approving plans for four dog runs including the temporary site at Southeast Area Park. After this step the process will be in the hands of Parks staff and should go much more quickly. You may be interested to read the details of DS8 (PDF link) because they include the proposed fee structure. I will have some details and thoughts on this later in the week, after I see how Council discussion goes.

DS18 - "Resolution to Approve a Partnership Agreement between the City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit and Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission for the Development, Maintenance and Operation of a Dog Park at Swift Run Park."
- This is the formal agreement between the City and County regarding their partnership in the Swift Run project. This is also worth a read as it lays out the nitty gritty bureaucratic organization for Swift Run (PDF link). I will also have some thoughts on this later in the week.

This should be an interesting meeting. I don't foresee any challenge to any of these issues, so we should be a large step closer to legal off-leash play on Tuesday morning.

As always, feel free to come out and show your support during one of the public hearing sections
(PH4 and PH5) or by simply watching. If you can't make the meeting, you can catch it on Channel 16 live or Tuesday morning at 11:00.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Questionnaire Results Coming Monday

I've been getting the responses to the City Council Candidate survey I sent around last week. I'll have them posted here as soon as I have all of the responses and have them organized. It will be no later than Monday morning, but probably no earlier than late Sunday night. Check back Monday for all the results.

Enjoy the nice weather this weekend, I hope you can all find somewhere to exercise with your dogs.