Public weighs in on dog park plans

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - 13:40
  • Members of the public fill out comment forms during an open house on dog parks at the Eagle River Town Center Building on Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Chugiak-Eagle River took another small step in the long trot toward creating public dog parks last week, though residents living near an existing park off Eagle River Road remain unconvinced such a park is right for their neighborhood.

About two dozen area residents turned out for a special public meeting on dog parks called by the Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors May 24 — and they had plenty to say about the potential for as many as two new such parks in Chugiak-Eagle River. Residents raised concerns ranging from the size of an existing municipal park at Fire House Lane to noise to the potential to drive tennis players out of the area.

“I’m all about dog parks, just not in this spot,” said Zach Seabolt, who along with several residents of Seabolt Lane and Fire House Lane showed up to express opposition to the site. “Dog parks are fine, but that spot is just not feasible.”

The open house is the latest step in a process the local parks and recreation board of supervisors began more than a year ago. After determining the need for at least one dog park in Chugiak-Eagle River based on public surveys, the parks board commissioned a draft study by R&M Consultants which found two locations — one at Fire House Lane and another at Peters Creek Park — most suitable for off-leash dog parks. The consultants also determined both parks should be opened concurrently in order to spread out use.

“This will allow for shared use between the two parks,” said R&M plannerEmily Bentti.

Bentti pointed out that the survey on dog parks found a large majority of people in favor of both having dog parks in Eagle River and the Fire House Lane location.

The current recommendation is to open a smaller park at Fire House Lane, which would have approximately five-eighths of an acre of fenced-in park space. Additionally, a nearly seven-acre plot at the Peters Creek Park would also be used, likely for larger breed dogs to run more freely than at the smaller park.

Some in the crowd expressed frustration at what they viewed as a lack of public process on the issue.

However, R&M group planning manager Van Le explained the process is both far from complete and has already included several parks board meetings over the past year.

That’s a good thing, she said.

“You’ve waited a long time for dog parks, but I always think if you wait, go through the process, go through the planning and have proper site planning and design, that will set the park up for success to begin with instead of spending all of our time later on trying to mitigate the impacts that were never dealt with from the very beginning,” Le said.

When neighbors wondered when a final decision would be made on dog parks, Le explained the open house was just the latest step in an attempt to gather as much public input as possible.

“We’re not done with this, this is the first open house,” she said.

Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation director John Rodda told those in attendance the process will continue for several months.

“We need to have your input,” he said. “And then when we get that input back in written form, we get that out so everybody understands it and we have a sense of direction — whatever that direction is — it does not stop us from having yet another meeting, if necessary, to actually take the analytics, put that back out, let people digest it and see what the results were.”

Only after parks board members have a full understanding of the will of the public will it move forward with any plans to develop one or both parks.

“At that time it would be a public hearing, the public still gets one more time to voice their comments,” he said.

Several people in the crowd filled out written comment forms. Le said the next step will be to compile those comments and summarize them for parks board members to consider.

The parks board does not meet for the summer and will reconvene in the fall to continue the dog park discussion. To view the draft dog park study, visit muni.org.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call (907) 257-4274

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