Dog Park sites under protest again, this time by bird groups

Finding a site for an off-leash dog area in the Minneapolis Park Board’s Sixth District is proving to be a difficult task.

Absent from Wednesday night’s Park Board meeting were dozens of black community members who successfully petitioned the board to remove Martin Luther King Jr. Park as possible site for a dog area, saying it disrespected the civil rights leader.

Present at the meeting was a small handful of Audubon Society members who asked the board to remove two of the three sites that the Park Board suggested as a replacement to MLK Park.

That group said that if the Park Board selects one of the two sites at Lyndale Park, migrating birds would be scared to land at the nearby Robert’s Bird Sanctuary.

Kit Healy, chair of the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis’s Conservation Committee, said birds are frightened by dogs, and if they see or sense them in the area they will not land in the sanctuary. Also, the increased traffic and pedestrians that a dog park brings would only add stress to an already stressed sanctuary.

Healy said Robert’s Bird Sanctuary is an important piece of land for birds migrating from the south. After the birds fly over southern Minnesota’s vast farmland and then through a developed urban Twin Cities area, the sanctuary provides a much-needed pit stop for the tired birds.

Some birds continue to northern Minnesota and Canada, while others use the sanctuary as their summer home.

Healy said the Audubon Society has been working with the Park Board on a management plan for the sanctuary, in hopes of creating a better buffer zone for the birds. Putting a dog park nearby would ruin that plan’s progress, she said.

Healy and Audubon Society member Connie Pepin said they support the idea of a dog park in Southwest Minneapolis, but said the Park Board should not have limited its suggestions to three sites.

“The Park Board needs to slow down and consider all stakeholders,” Healy said.

Several Minneapolis groups, including the bird sanctuary, are in the process of appointing a 19-member citizens advisory committee that will be tasked with recommending a site to the Park Board.  

The third recommended site is at Lyndale Farmstead Park where there is currently a parking lot for the Park Board’s Southside Operations Center. That site is less than half the size of the two sites near the bird sanctuary.