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Eden Prairie / Minnetonka, Minnesota
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Woman says city barking up the wrong tree

Eden Prairie News, November 11, 2004

by Vicky Miller

So now the City is looking at several conservation areas and a cross country ski trail at Staring Lake Park as possible sites for dogs to run unleashed. Richard T. Anderson must be turning over in his grave. The City honors the late, former council member for his environmental record by naming a conservation area after him on one side of town, then a month later, Parks Director Bob Lambert nominates a conservation area in Anderson’s part of town for possible reclassification as a dog park. That conservation area, Birch Island Woods, was created as a result of a 2 1/2 year effort involved hundreds of people, not a few of whom live in Anderson’s Kingswood neighborhood; not a few of whom are dog owners who leash their dogs when they walk through the woods.

I am among those who organized a now countless number of meetings, hearings, meetings, fund raising events, nature hikes and literature drops. I am among those who persevered alternately patronizing and arrogant posturings of a few, past key city officials and a current parks director who I suspect in their guts, despite the memorial, don’t really appreciate the Dick Andersons of this world.

I was a member of the citizen task force that developed the plan for the Birch Island Woods that was approved by the City Council in June 2002. The plan, in part, calls for keeping the 32 acre tract as natural as possible and restoring its wildlife habitats. The plan acknowledges the use of the area by folks with leashed dogs but not for free-roaming dogs for several good reasons.

The woods is among the very last areas in northern Eden Prairie that still supports a menagerie of woodland and wetland animals and birds including deer, fox, muskrat, ground hog, muskrat and various smaller animals as well as wild turkey, woodcock, pheasant, pileated woodpecker and owls, hawks and eagles which prey on the smaller animals. Blue birds have even returned to areas along the railroad that borders the western edge of the conservation area.

Increasing numbers of unleashed dogs will drive these animals out in addition to trampling native wildflowers such as ladyslippers, blazing star and coneflowers

Mr. Lambert is reported to have told the parks commission that many people have been walking their dogs leash-free through the area anyway. Not so fast. In the two years that the woods has been protected as a conservation area, the city has failed to provide it with any leash law signs. Pet owners who drive in from other towns or live nearby may be unaware of the leash law. Who can blame them?

I live a few hundred yards from the woods which I visit almost daily. Large majorities of people with dogs have them leashed. I would like to think they are doing so out of respect for both the environment and the other visitors - the special needs children from Eden Wood, the bike riders and hikers from all over town, the groups of boy scouts who built wood chip trails, the hundreds of volunteers who have pitched in to remove buckthorn or do litter clean up, struggling parents who feel a lot better about life knowing that their kids can see a fox and hear an owl on a single walk. I am very uncomfortable with the fact that the residents of Eden Prairie have an individual on city staff who doesn’t appreciate or want to protect this treasure.

Vicky Miller is an Eden Prairie resident and dog owner.

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