Existing dog parks are rated; no SW site in sight

The search for an off-leash dog park site in Southwest Minneapolis continues to flounder as staff of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board prepare to release an initial assessment on the first four sites.

The Park Board has opened dog parks at Lake of the Isles, Minnehaha Park, Franklin Terrace and Columbia Park. Jeff Lee, the park’s environmental and operations manager, said he would report to the board May 1 on the environmental impacts of the dog parks.

The report would include information on such things as the condition of the grass, owner compliance in removing dog droppings, a soil compaction analysis and the impact on trees, he said.

The report would also include issues about off-leash permits, parking, park safety and maintenance issues, Lee said.

Preliminary information is that the Lake of the Isles and Columbia sites have lost their turf, he said. Franklin Terrace has had an increase in dog feces inside the dog run. The Minnehaha Park site has had feces on the path leading up to the dog run.

Those supporting the dog parks — and the neighbors who oppose particular sites — will look for information in that report to bolster their respective arguments.

In Southwest, the list of possible sites has ebbed and flowed and now appears to include at least four candidates: two in Berry Park near Richfield Road and Linden Hills Boulevard, the archery range by Lake Calhoun and an area near Minnehaha Creek east of Nicollet Avenue.

Between 150 and 200 people turned out for an April 8 neighborhood meeting on the Linden Hills dog park sites, the vast majority opposing them.

Several audience members reacted hotly when Park Board member Ed Solomon suggested "we have to provide something" for dog owners because the city tickets dog owners who let their pets run off leash.

Others challenged the Park Board’s assumption that the area had sufficient parking.

In charged political waters, the Park Board’s course of action is vague. Board President Bob Fine, a Linden Hills resident, attended the meeting and said afterwards he expected to get a recommendation from staff.

Cliff Swenson, a staff member attending the meeting, said staff would report to

the board on the information gathered at the meeting — and seek further direction from the board.

Frustration has grown on both sides of the issue.

"There will always be strong neighborhood opposition," said former City Councilmember Lisa McDonald, a dog owner and dog park fan who attended the Linden Hills meeting. Out of the thousands of acres of parkland, "we’d like 10 dedicated to dog parks. At this point, I don’t care what site they pick. Just pick a site. The furor will die down."

The Park Board scheduled an April 29 community meeting to talk about the Minnehaha Creek site.

Fine said the creek site didn’t affect homes the way other sites do. "It’s down in a valley," he said. "It is an underutilized area. Some of it goes under a bridge."

The next step would become clearer after that meeting, he said.