Another dog-park brush likely in Linden Hills

Opposition to a possible dog park in Linden Hills is organizing, as the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is planning a public meeting on the proposal.

Marta Nelson, 4001 Linden Hills Blvd., lives a stone’s throw from a site that is a leading candidate for an off-leash dog park in Southwest, a 5-acre low wooded area near the intersection of Richfield Road and Linden Hills Boulevard. She has set up information signs in her front yard and started circulating a petition against the site, a petition that now has more than 150 names.

This is a tony area of Southwest.

The Nelsons’ house has an estimated market value of $500,000, according to the assessor’s office.

"We bought this house for the serenity," Nelson said. If the dog park went in, "we would become a destination."

She said neighborhood kids use the proposed dog park location for informal games, like capture the flag, or to build forts.

During a brief conversation in Nelson’s front yard, neighbor Laura Henderson drove up in a blue minivan to sign the petition.

"I don’t think it (the dog park) is an advantage to the neighborhood," Henderson said, noting it would add to parking problems. "I don’t know what is wrong with the emptiness of it."

On the other side of the issue, the Park Board is getting pressure from the Minneapolis chapter of ROMP — Responsible Owners of Mannerly Pets. Members have worked for years to get off-leash dog parks sited in each park district.

The site by Richfield Road "isn’t a neighborhood park, it is buckthorn," said Jean Johnson, an MROMP board member. She said the area had an abundance of other green space available for children to play.

She suggested park staff could fence the dog park in a way to keep it out of sight of homes. "They could clear some in the middle and leave a lot of buffer," she said.

The site rose to the top as part of a community process. The Park Board created a Southwest dog park task force last year, made up of residents – dog owners and non-dog owners — from neighborhoods in the 6th Park District, including Johnson. Over several months, the task force reviewed 26 potential dog park sites, evaluating them with a range of criteria, including safety, parking, environmental impacts and accessibility.

Park Board staff had ranked a 2.3-acre parcel between Richfield Road and William Berry Parkway, north of the walking path, as its number one site; the task force ranked it number seven on its list. That was as close as any to an agreement on sites between Park Board staff and the task force.

Park Board staff then added a nearby site, number 27, the one across the street from Nelson’s house. The task force ranked it number two, second only to a Lyndale Farmstead site.

The task force forwarded its report to the Park Board in January.

Task force member Sarah Duniway said the committee considered such factors as proximity to homes, but "I don’t think you could make a dog park in Southwest Minneapolis, except for the archery range, that is not next to people’s houses."

The neighborhood opposition did not surprise her, said Duniway, a Kingfield resident.

"The Park Board should hear people’s concerns," she said. "I hope they will also give weight to the significant amount of work the task force did. It is in their hands now."

"No matter where they put it, there are going to be people who don’t like it. If they go park by park and say people here don’t like it, we will never get a dog park in Southwest.

If they are not going to have a dog park, they should just take that position."

Even the District 60 DFL party has been drawn into the fray; a resolution on the convention ballot takes a stand opposing a dog park at the William Berry site.

Nelson said an off-leash dog park doesn’t belong in a residential area, period. She is not a dog hater, she said. Her home is full of animals — zebra finches, a parrot, doves, a cockatoo, a cockatiel, a rabbit, hermit crab, guinea pig, rat, gold fish and a Great Dane named Pinky.

"I know how squirrelly my dog can be. I can’t imagine 35 of them over there," she said.