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Site remains sticking point for dog park

Flatly turned down last month by the Grand Forks City Council, supporters of a dog park detoured to the Park Board on Tuesday. Last month marked a lopsided defeat for Roaming Paws Advocacy Group as the council nixed the idea of putting an off-lea...

Flatly turned down last month by the Grand Forks City Council, supporters of a dog park detoured to the Park Board on Tuesday.

Last month marked a lopsided defeat for Roaming Paws Advocacy Group as the council nixed the idea of putting an off-leash, fenced dog park in the city-owned Greenway, and also said it had no money to contribute to the cause.

Park Board members are more sympathetic to the cause, but one major roadblock remains.

"I think there is no question that we need a dog park, which have been successful everywhere they've been built," Park Board President Jim Bollman said. "The only thing holding us back is finding a place to put it."

Park District officials believe they had the ideal spot last year, the south end of Lions Park located near the Columbia Mall. But neighbors rebelled and board members backed off.

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"We can't find any place that people will let us put it," Bollman said. "No one wants one in their backyard."

Nancy Joyner, coordinator of Roaming Paws, said the park has good support. "There were a little more than 200 signatures that were negative in their petition, and we had 1,600 positive signatures on our petition, 1,300 of them from Grand Forks," she said.

Fargo, Minot and Bismarck have well-used dog parks, which are becoming popular nationwide, Joyner said.

"Enclosed play areas prevent off-leash dogs from infringing on the rights of other community residents, park users such as joggers, small children and those who may be fearful of dogs," she said.

Estimates say Grand Forks has 8,000 to 10,000 dogs, even though fewer than 500 have city-required licenses.

"It's location, location, location," Joyner said. "We can't ask for funds if we don't have a spot. We need to take on one issue at a time."

The Circle of Friends Humane Society plans to have its dog park available by late summer, once the fencing is completed. It's located just outside the city limits on North Washington Street. Last year, the Park District spent $3,500 on landscaping for its park.

The plan is to add dog park amenities when money becomes available, said Arlette Moen, executive director of Circle of Friends.

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"I think the answer is to see how much that park is used and how well-received it is," Bollman said. "That will give us an idea of how many we might need. And maybe it also will show that having a dog park isn't detrimental to your neighborhood."

Joyner also wants the Park District to set up a special fund for dog park donations. Board members have no problem doing that, as they've set up such arrangements with organized supporters of gymnastics, tennis, softball and baseball.

In some cases, the Park District borrows the money and then pays back the loan through donations and pledges. In other cases, the district serves as a place to park the money.

"The board always is receptive to people who put some of their own money into a project," said Steve Mullally, superintendent of parks.

"Maybe there will be some place on the Greenway that might become acceptable later. Or there may be land that is farther on the outskirts that will become available. If we find a suitable place, I think this will all fall into place."

Bakken reports on local news and writes a column. Reach him at 780-1125, (800) 477-6572 ext. 125, or rbakken@gfherald.com .

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