Dog park idea explored

Published 9:43 am Friday, December 3, 2010

A group of citizens who were within sniffing distance of bringing a dog park to town in 2009 have begun meeting again for another chance at achieving their goal.

Although the group has a long way to go before the dog park becomes a reality, the group met Wednesday evening at the Austin Public Library to brainstorm potential locations for the park.

“What this group is looking at is doing fundraisers on their own and working with the city,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said. “Maybe the city could come up with a location. The city has so much land from the floods; we’ve got more park land than we know what to do with right now.”

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Stiehm said he is a part of the group as a dog owner and supporter of the project, not as a leader within the group.

When dog park talks were in the works a couple years ago, the city pledged $10,000 towards the project, which is estimated to cost around $40,000 total. However, due to budget cuts in 2009, the city had to cut the funding.

The bulk of the project cost would likely be in the fencing, Stiehm said.

Park and Recreation Director Kim Underwood said fencing was quoted at around $12,000 last time the department looked into cost estimates for the project.

Both Underwood and Stiehm agree that there would be more public support behind the park if more people understood what purpose a dog park serves.

“It’s not a doggy daycare,” Underwood said. “I think some people are under the impression that people just come and drop their dog off. It’s not that. It’s a social thing. It’s a place to come and let your dog off its leash.”

Stiehm echoed Underwood’s thoughts, saying that, as a dog owner, he enjoys going to dog parks in other towns.

“If you look, everybody around us has dog parks except for Albert Lea,” Stiehm said. “If I was a new person to town I would think going to the dog park would be a good way to meet people. You just automatically start talking to people. It’s fun.”

Since the city is unable to provide funding for the project, the citizen group is likely going to plan ways to raise funds for the park.

The group meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Austin Public Library at 7 p.m.