Dog park approved for industrial area

Published 10:28 am Thursday, May 8, 2008

After months of community “negotiations,” a local dog park got the green light from the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, which will coordinate its assembly soon at an industrial park east of the Hormel Institute.

“The plan is a go-ahead,” Park and Rec director Dennis Maschka said.

“I would hope by the first of August it would be completed, but I can’t guarantee that,” he said.

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Only a handful of people watched the vote from the board, which considered two sites before unanimously approving the industrial location off 16th Avenue Northeast, known as a whole as Austin Industrial Park Northeast.

The second spot, near Seven Springs Addition, was discarded because of lack of parking, limited space and severe flooding.

“That industrial site seems almost perfect,” board member Gretchen Ramlo said. The site includes a fire hydrant, retention pond and is nearby a walking trail and parking lot.

“I would have to say that’s pretty good,” said local citizen Chico Lilly, who attended with his wife, Holly.

With petition in hand, dog park advocates approached the Park and Rec board in August 2007, about five years after the issue fizzled out following a similar effort in 2002.

This time, the board was amenable, agreeing to invest $10,000 and investigate locations with community members.

Wildwood Park, off 16th Avenue and First Street, emerged as a favorite because severe flooding had led to the removal of nearby homes and park’s amenities. Board members and proponents also felt there was enough room to accommodate a two-section area for dogs.

But neighborhood residents protested, submitting their own petition to the Austin City Council in December. They argued that the park put neighborhood children at risk, may pose noise and traffic issues and would likely require reconstruction because of persistent flooding.

“We’re not opposed to a dog park in concept, but we think there’s a better site,” Marian Clennon, of Third Street Northeast, said at the council meeting.

So the Park and Rec board reconsidered options, such as Rotary Centennial Park, off Eighth Avenue Southeast and South Main Street; the Cook Farm Industrial site off Highway 218 North; and other park areas.

Maschka announced the final two during the board meeting Wednesday, and after short discussion, board members and citizens endorsed the industrial site.

“We’ll try to get at it,” Maschka said of the project, and called on advocates to help with the work. Its construction will include fencing around three acres of land, and some concrete work. The park will be split in two, with two acres for larger dogs and one acre for smaller ones.