Commission narrows locations for dog park
September 2, 2010
By Tim Pfarr
The Parks Commission has narrowed the number of potential locations for a Newcastle dog park to four.
The locations are two spots near Lake Boren, the sports park to be north off Southeast 95th Way and piece of city property in the Madison Lane neighborhood, at the corner of Southeast 71st Place and 114th Avenue Southeast.
The commission trimmed the list of locations at its Aug. 12 meeting, nixing numerous locations across the city, including Donegal Park, Bartrum Station and Redman Park.
Members of the Newcastle organization F.E.T.C.H. — Friends Embracing the Canine Heart — walked the four remaining sites with members of the Parks Commission Aug. 23.
Lake Boren Park
The proposed Lake Boren Park dog park site is at the north end of the park. The land features slight grades, grass and trees. Members of F.E.T.C.H. strongly recommended a 1.3-acre park at that location, and it rejected all other locations in the city.
Jim Palzer, who made a presentation on behalf of F.E.T.C.H. at the Aug. 12 meeting, said the park is an ideal location, because it allows dog owners to congregate near the city’s core and within walking distance of many neighborhoods.
He added that the dog park would be accessible by those with limited mobility and would not interfere with the Lake Boren Park Master Plan, which details the city’s vision for the park.
In his presentation, Palzer cited a study that members of F.E.T.C.H. conducted the weekend of Aug. 7 and 8. He said members of the group spent the weekend at the park and found that 219 of the 826 people who visited the park that weekend came with dogs.
Those 219 people brought 173 dogs, and 101 of the dogs were off leash, he said.
More than two-dozen residents attended the Aug. 12 meeting, and others testified that Lake Boren Park is the right location for the dog park. Also, Jim Palzer’s wife, Lynn Palzer, testified that she would still let her dogs off leash in the park and risk being fined instead of taking her dog to an off-leash park somewhere else in the city.
Those who wish to drive to the location would need to park in the Lake Boren Park parking lot, which has 58 stalls. The park would be about 50 feet from the water.
There are no critical areas buffers overlapping with the location. Critical areas include steep slopes, wetlands and other geographical features that may prevent development on a given piece of land.
Lake Boren Esplanade
The Lake Boren Esplanade is a long, narrow 2.2-acre patch of land west off of Coal Creek Parkway, near the intersection with Southeast 79th Street. The location is grassy and almost directly abuts Lake Boren.
A portion of the site also serves as a storm water overflow. There is no parking; the group had to park the five cars it drove to visit the locations on the Coal Creek Parkway sidewalk. Visitors would need to park at Lake Boren Park and walk to the location, slightly more than a quarter-mile away.
Parks Program Manager Michael Holly said there are critical areas buffers that overlap with the site and could interfere with the construction of a dog park. However, he said steps could be taken to mitigate the interference if the Parks Commission chose to move forward on the site.
The sports park
The sports park, which has not yet been built, would be on 33.5 acres of partially forested land north off Southeast 95th Way. Holly suggested the location could be used for a temporary or permanent dog park. The park’s master plan also calls for it to contain an off-leash dog park.
Dirt removed during the Coal Creek Parkway project was dumped at the site, which created a plateau about 20 feet tall. A temporary dog park could be put on that plateau, or a more permanent one could be put east of the site next to the plateau. The latter is overgrown with blackberry bushes, but this is where the park’s master plan calls for the off-leash park to be built.
The sports park contains a gravel lot that could accommodate at least 20 cars. The park is scheduled to be constructed in three phases, with the first phase beginning in 2011 at the earliest. The dog park is scheduled to be built in the third phase of the project, but Holly said the dog park could be added to the first phase.
The park would cost about $14.7 million to build, and the sports park’s plan has already undergone the State Environmental Policy Act checklist, which examined the impact the park would have on things such as noise, air, water, land and traffic. There are no critical areas buffers overlapping with the location.
The Madison Lane property is a three-quarters-of-an-acre patch of city-owned land nestled behind about 10 houses at the corner of 114th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 71st Place. A fence separates houses from the city-owned land.
Molly Sandvick, president of the Madison Lane Homeowners Association, and several other Madison Lane residents met the group at the location Aug. 23. None wanted the dog park in his or her neighborhood.
Sandvick said others who were not able to attend felt the same way and said a dog park at the location would be ridiculous.
“Our largest concerns are traffic,” Sandvick said. “I don’t want 150 cars in this neighborhood every weekend.”
She said she was also concerned the park could have been created there without her or her neighbors’ knowledge. Only street parking would be available to those who would use the park in Madison Lane.
There are no critical areas buffers overlapping with the location.
The next step
At the next Parks Commission meeting Sept. 8, the commission will discuss thoughts about the locations visited. It may narrow the list to one or two places.
The commission will then likely begin working on details of the potential dog park and hold a public hearing. That hearing would likely not be until November, Holly said.
Once the council decides to move forward on a location, it will be subject to the SEPA checklist, which will detail adverse environmental effects a dog park could have.