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New dog park possibilities proposed

November 4, 2004 Eden Prairie News

By Stuart Sudak

Four sites are being eyed for additional off-leash dog areas in Eden Prairie.
Those are Staring Lake Park, Edenbrook Conservation Area, Birch Island Woods Conservation Area, and the Westgate Conservation Area.
Parks Director Bob Lambert said this differs from how an Off-Leash Study Committee attempted to tackle the issue in 2003. Unlike what the committee proposed, these large areas would not be fenced or used exclusively for dogs. (The one exception to this is that a 1.5-acre designated off-leash area at the entry of the Edenbrook Conservation Area would be fenced, but people would be allowed to walk their dogs off-leash throughout the area.)
“That requires people to have voice control of their dog but that’s what they’re supposed to have over at (the Bloomington off-leash area) as well,” Lambert said this week. “That area is only partially fenced. We’re just saying the same thing and we have several sites that we think will work for that.”
As for adjacent residents supporting such a plan, Lambert doesn’t think it would have a significant impact on neighbors since those sites are used that way “right now and have been for years.” That is despite a city law prohibiting dogs from being allowed off-leash except in areas where it is allowed.
“We’re just suggesting we legalize how people are using some of these sites today,” he said.
Lambert admits members of the off-leash committee could take exception to the proposal He suspects they would want the areas fenced since some people who would want to use it might not have good enough voice control over their dogs.
“But the bottom line for us to try and go out and fence 15, 20, 25 acres and make it exclusively used for dogs is really, not in my opinion, a good use of our park property,” he said.
Lambert stressed this will help the city offer a variety of ways to serve people with dogs in the community.
Currently, off-leash dogs are allowed in four community park hockey rinks seven months a year, while a 2_-acre year-round off-leash area on Flying Cloud Drive near Best Buy’s former headquarters should open in the next couple weeks.
New plans call for adding one more year-round fenced area, plus 250 acres where people can legally walk their dogs without a leash.
He noted if Three Rivers Park District offers a 10-acre fenced-in off-leash area as it proposes, “Eden Prairie would certainly be the leader in the state for providing opportunities for dog owners.”
Council member Jan Mosman, who gave a presentation last month to her fellow council members on the need for such an area, said it’s great the city is doing something. However, she knows the fence issue could rankle some.
“To me, it sounds like a fine idea but I just know there are going to be concerns from people who I know who love to bring their dogs to off-leash areas,” she said. “They don’t even bring their dogs on the side (of the Bloomington off-leash area) where it’s not fenced.”
The recommendations were discussed during Monday’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission meeting. The commission agreed to discuss the issue further next month with members of the Off-Leash Study Committee.

November 4, 2004 Eden Prairie News
Looking for a little more paw room
Council member urges city to add to its off-leash dog areas
By Stuart Sudak

Jan Mosman finds most dog owners to be passively hopeful.
To prove her point, Mosman says many dog owners remain optimistic that more land will be found in Eden Prairie so their canines can frolic close to home unencumbered by the pull of a leash. The City Council member said they just haven’t been pushy about asking for a sizable off-leash dog playground.
“I keep suggesting they contact the council, or contact the city manager,” she said last week. “‘Do you think that would help?’ they say. But people don’t seem to do it. They put up with whatever is available. We do have nice parks, and people go walking with their dogs on a leash. But it’s not enough exercise. It’s like walking with a toddler and thinking you’ve gotten enough exercise for the day after you’ve had a Big Mac for lunch.”
Last month, Mosman asked city officials to revisit the issue more than a year after the council denied putting a fenced off-leash dog exercise area on 20 acres in the Cedar Hills neighborhood park near Flying Cloud Airport. The site was scrapped when nearby residents voiced concerns with having a dog park near their homes.
The council, however, did agree to use four community hockey rinks for off-leash dog areas as well as 2_ acres on Flying Cloud Drive near Best Buy’s former headquarters. While the rinks have been used, work is still being done to complete the fence around the Flying Cloud Drive site. That could be open for dogs in the next couple weeks.
Mosman said many residents were hoping for more, and have told her they want a convenient place with plenty of paw room in Eden Prairie. (She reiterated that 1,600 residents signed a 2002 petition urging the city create such an area.) Something, she added, that is much more expansive than the rinks, which are used seven months a year.
If a large chunk of land can’t be found, she suspects people would be satisfied if the city would be able to have several 2- to 5-acre sites throughout town. And if it’s going to happen, it needs to happen soon, before the last remaining pieces of the city are carved into businesses or parks or homes, Mosman added.
“Absolutely everyone I’ve talked to said ‘Yeah, there ought to be one,’” she said. “Whether they have dogs or not, people like the idea. So it’s just finding where it would work, where it’s not right near somebody’s backyard, or where it’s not going to be near traffic, and where it’s not real erodable soil.”
During her council presentation, Mosman showed photographs of off-leash areas in Bloomington and near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Richfield.
“There are a lot of Eden Prairie people who go there because they have to,” she said. “There isn’t anything closer.”
While visiting those places, Mosman said she noticed that the people weren’t the only ones grinning.
“Dogs smile,” she said of the dogs romping together in the area. “It’s absolutely hilarious when you see a dog drooping and then all of a sudden you see him smiling and having so much fun. And they’ll look right at you and they’re like saying ‘This is so great.’”
The need
Mosman understands dog owners since she too is a dog owner. Mosman’s family includes Cookie, a 6-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix.
Despite Cookie, Mosman said the off-leash issue isn’t necessarily her issue. She doesn’t need such an area. She is content to walk Cookie through town or let the dog roam the family’s big yard.
But, she emphasized, many others don’t have those options.
“Some can walk at certain times. Some are physically limited,” she said. “Some don’t want to walk alone on the ice in winter.”
Mosman admits many owners take their dogs off leash and let them run on park property. City law prohibits owners from taking their dogs off leash except in those areas where it is allowed.
“So we’ve got a lot of illegal activity,” she said. “It’s not like these are bad people or anything. It’s just that they’re frustrated because ‘Where else are they supposed to go?’”
Libby Hargrove, who served on the city’s Off-Leash Area Study Committee, agreed.
Hargrove reiterated more acreage is needed than what is now proposed, calling the 2_ acres at Flying Cloud Drive the size of a “postage stamp.” But, she added, there are “a ton of people” that go outside Eden Prairie to enjoying spending time outside with their pets.
Eden Prairie resident Cynthia Weber currently goes to dog parks in Bloomington and Elm Creek Park Reserve on a regular basis. She believes a park contributes to “well-behaved, well-socialized and well-exercised dogs.”
Weber believes dog parks have added value because “they bring people from the community together and bring people to our parks.” Those, she said, help reduce crime in the area.
“There are many references online from other communities that have studied dog parks for their communities and have found that dog parks reduce problems such as vandalism and crime in the area,” she said.
“I think that as a community we should support efforts for dog owners to socialize and exercise their dogs in an off-lease dog park setting,” added resident Lisa Rolf. “A dog park benefits dog owners, dogs, and the dogless neighbors who live next door to dogs."
Besides city’s plans for the land on Flying Cloud Drive, Bryant Lake Regional Park could be the future site of an off-leash dog area. The Three Rivers Park District is considering a 10-acre off-leash area there.
Mosman said that would help. However, she sees that as a way to supplement the need, not supply all of it.
“Flying Cloud Drive is close to Bryant Lake,” she said. “It would be great if there could also be things on the other side of town to accommodate all these people who want this.”

Ssudak@swpub.com is Stuart Sudak’s e-mail address. He also can be reached at 345-6474.

 

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