Neighbors speak out against Fire House Lane dog park proposal

Monday, August 13, 2018 - 12:22
  • The intersection of Eagle River Road and Fire House Lane in Eagle River. The local parks board wants to turn the area into a dog park, but residents of homes near the site say they’re opposed to the idea. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Seabolt Place in Eagle River borders Fire House Park, where the Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors would like to add a dog park. The park already includes tennis courts, but the board would like to add the dog park to the wooded area at far left. There are three homes on Seabolt, and all three homeowners have said they’re opposed to adding a dog park because of the potential for increased noise and traffic in the area. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Residents of one of Eagle River’s oldest neighborhoods are growling over a proposal to add an off-leash dog park to a small municipal park alongside Eagle River Road.

“I’m not against a dog park, I’m a dog owner,” said Zach Seabolt, who lives on Seabolt Lane across from the proposed park. “I’m just against where this dog park is going.”

Seabolt and his neighbors say a dog park on the property (which is bordered on three sides by Eagle River Road, Fire House Lane and Seabolt Lane) would increase noise and traffic and wouldn’t adequately serve the needs of dog owners because parking is limited and the space (about a half-acre) is too small.

The Eagle River-Chugiak Parks and Recreation board of supervisors has been trying to find a use for the “Fire House Lane” park for several years. In 2012-13, the board proposed a skateboard park for the land, but backed off those plans due to concerns from neighbors about noise and the potential for increased vandalism and illicit drug use.

The park is currently home to two tennis courts and six parking spaces, along with a wooded section of land cut through with informal trails. On its fourth side, the rectangular plot of land is bordered by Eagle River Elementary School. The two plots of land are currently separated by a chain-link fence that has a gap for walkers to access the school’s playground.

Allyson Baloga also lives across Seabolt from the park. She said there’s already noise from the tennis courts, and is worried about the potential for more traffic in the small residential neighborhood wedged between Eagle River Road and Old Eagle River Road.

“My only reservation would be that the street is already busy enough,” said Baloga as she unloaded her two small boys from the family’s minivan Thursday afternoon.

Bob Martin has lived on Old Eagle River Road for nearly four decades. Martin said he’s opposed to turning the park into a dog park because there’s not enough room for parking, there will be more traffic on local roads and more noise.

“Given the huge number of potential dog park users, the wholly inadequate parking facilities at Firehouse Park, the increased congestion from multiple uses on a short and busy street, and the never-tried-before-in-Anchorage sound buffering (assuming the Municipality decides it’s needed), we conclude that this is not an appropriate site,” Martin wrote in an email to the Star. “At best, it will cause insurmountable traffic problems in this area. At worst, it will lead to accidents and injuries. In short, Firehouse Park is terrible option.”

The next parks board meeting is Monday, July 9 at 7 p.m. in the Eagle River Town Center building on Business Boulevard. The board has been talking about dog parks for more than a year, and R&M Consultants produced a draft study on the idea earlier this year. Based on that study and its own discussions, the board has tentatively selected the Fire House Lane site and the Peters Creek Park as locations for two dog parks. The board has said the idea is to try and open both parks at roughly the same time to spread out use, but no final decisions have been made.

Board members have said they like the Fire House location because it’s within walking distance of the town’s core area and would give people a place in town to legally walk their dogs off leash.

Opponents say there’s better spots in Eagle River — such as Schroeder Park — to locate a dog park. However, Schroeder is currently home to basketball courts, pavilions, a disc golf course and playground equipment and wasn’t among the park sites considered by the board.

In May, the board held an open house to discuss dog parks and the board has said it hopes to have at least one more open house before making a final decision on whether to proceed. At its June meeting, board supervisors said they were frustrated with neighbors’ apparent desire to stop a dog park on Fire House Lane rather than trying to mitigate potential issues.

“Their only concern is to stop it,” said board member Lexi Hill.

That’s not the case said Seabolt, whose family has lived in the neighborhood since 1950.

“If I didn’t live here I would be on the same side of the fence,” he said.

The area just isn’t big enough, he said, and is already used on a daily basis by tennis players.

“There’s either two or four cars at that parking lot all the time,” he said.

Seabolt walked out of the open house in May, saying he didn’t feel the parks board was listening to neighbors’ concerns. He said he still feels that way, and thinks the board will continue to pursue the Fire House Lane dog park despite local opposition.

“I think they’ve already made up their minds,” he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]

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