A place for pooches?


Group working to create dog park; neighbors object to putting it at Whitlock Park

A proposal to turn a spot on Powell’s southeastern edge into a dog park led nearby residents to complain the city was barking up the wrong tree; dog park proponents are now looking for an alternative location.

The concept — presented by Tina Fagan and Judy Londo to a full house at last week’s Powell City Council meeting — is to find a place where city residents and non-residents alike can let their dogs run in a safe, fenced environment.

The preliminary thought was to use the city’s Whitlock Park, a currently undeveloped grassy area that sits between the Powell school district’s bus barn and Rancho Trail, off of Madison Street.

However, nearby resident David Wyman spoke on behalf of a handful of his neighbors in opposing Whitlock Park as a possible location. Wyman told the council that he and the other residents are in favor of a dog park in Powell, just not in their backyard. Citing issues such as lower property values, wear and tear on the grass, noise and odor concerns and lack of parking, Wyman said alternative solutions need to be considered.

“It sounds like your location is not high on the list, so we have that figured out,” Powell Mayor John Wetzel said in response to Wyman’s remarks. “We’ll continue the planning process and work with Tina and Judy and see if we can figure something else out.”

Billings and Cody have dog parks, and Wetzel said the idea of creating one in Powell has been kicked around for a couple years. The mayor assured those in attendance at last week’s meeting that there would be no formal decision made on the project without further discussions.

“As with any project like this, lots of public input will be needed before this will take place,” Wetzel said, adding, “This is a discussion of where we’re at in the process.”

Wetzel also said the city would not be financing the project should it be approved, saying funding for a dog park would have to come from outside interests.

“Those in favor of the dog park, if they’re capable of raising the money, then we will continue to move forward,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons they came to talk to us, so we can start talking about a location and funding — as well as if there is enough public interest to move forward.”

Whitlock Park was proposed as a location because one side of the park (bordering the bus barn) is already fenced; the cost would be substantially lower with only three sides to fence.

“[Whitlock Park] would take the least amount to turn into a dog park,” Wetzel said. “But that doesn’t mean that’s where we’re headed. There are other parks that have other considerations.”

Fagan and Londo gave a brief outline of the project, as well as its genesis, at the meeting. Fagan said she’s talked with many residents who’ve expressed an interest in a park where dog owners could take their pets for exercise.

“I constantly get asked on Facebook if there’s a dog park in Powell,” Fagan said. “I use the one in Cody [located at Beck Lake] quite a bit, and every time I go to Cody, I take my dog, because she’s a runner. The only place around here that I feel good about taking her, and even then not so much, is up on the bench.”

Fagan added, “We wanted to have a location that was safe for the dog, safe for property, wildlife and livestock where you can take your dog to run off some pent-up energy.”

While Whitlock Park emerged as an early contender for the location, Fagan reiterated that using Whitlock Park for the project was simply an idea, and that planners of the project are open to suggestions. A decision needs to be made soon, however, as the project can not move forward without a definite location.

“In order to apply for any kind of grants, or even start fundraising, we have to have a location,” Londo said. “Until we have a location we really can’t start that process.”

Councilman Jim Hillberry had several questions about the park, including whether there was enough public interest to sustain it. He also inquired as to what part the city would play in terms of general maintenance and upkeep, as well as who’s responsible for the behavior of the animals. Fagan said it would be up to the owners to police their dogs, and to diffuse potential issues before they become one.

“People need to be able to recognize if their dog is aggressive,” she said. “If your dog is nipping and growling, maybe don’t bring him.”

Asked by Councilman Scott Mangold how much it would cost to build a dog park, Fagan estimated around $14,000 at Whitlock Park and more if another location was chosen. Ongoing maintenance would go through the city’s parks department. Parks superintendent Del Barton said trying to estimate the upkeep would be moot without a definite location. Fagan said annual fundraisers would be held each year to help offset the costs of routine maintenance.

“We hope to find a group we can pair up with that’s a non-profit,” she said.

The issue was then opened up for public comment.

“I’ve gone around and spoke with most of the people in the subdivision, and I think all of us carry the same opinion,” Wyman told the council. “There are some obvious reasons why we would be opposed. One big thing is the advertisement of a dog park for vacationers and travelers. They will be coming to our area with RVs, trailers, even semi-trucks. ... There’s no place to park, and no place to turn these rigs around, except in the cul-de-sac in front of our houses.”

Wyman also pointed out that, for some residents, there is little separation from their backyards to the park, in some cases just a sidewalk. He also worried that turning Whitlock Park into a dog park would “completely eliminate any other use for the park.”

“It would definitely interfere with the enjoyment of our yards,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of traffic up and down that sidewalk ... people from all over, walking the sidewalk, looking into our backyards, looking into our house windows. ... People would not want this on the other side of their backyard fence.”

After Wyman finished speaking, Wetzel reiterated that no action was being taken right away.

“This is a discussion — we are not making any decisions tonight,” Wetzel said.