Library field: a bon(e) fide dog park? |

Library field: a bon(e) fide dog park?

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Nikki McGee midmorning Monday was in a spot that is familiar to her pet, Otis, a bloodhound puppy.

Just a little ways from her place on Park Avenue, McGee had brought Otis to the large field on the north side of the Park City Library and Education Center, one of the best swaths of parkland inside Park City.

McGee said she and Otis come to the field sometimes as many as three times in a day, giving the dog a wide-open, mostly level grassy area to frolic. And McGee is not the only dog owner who enjoys the field.

"Five o’clock, there’s probably 40 dogs," she said, adding, "You know everyone that comes here. All his friends are here."

The field outside the Library and Education Center has long been a gathering spot for dog owners, a place where they let their pets off their leashes to frolic about and run, many at top speed, the length of the grass. Roads and a parking lot border the land, but it is big enough that the dogs rarely seem to stray toward danger.

There was a group of six or so dogs on the field when McGee and Otis were there on Monday, chasing each other down, clawing at each other and occasionally nipping at each other.

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The field, in fact, seems more popular than the purpose-built dog park at Quinn’s Junction, a ways away from many Park City dog owners. But the people who let their dogs run free outside the Library and Education Center are doing so in a place where dogs are required to be on a leash.

Leash laws are in effect in public places throughout Park City with the exception of the Quinn’s Junction dog park. Police officers and officers from Summit County Animal Control, though, rarely enforce the leash laws at the Library and Education Center field, allowing the people there to enjoy time with their pets.

A City Hall panel, though, has broached the idea of opening a sanctioned dog park at the Library and Education field. The idea has not been widely publicized but was recently noted in a list of projects under consideration and the provided to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council. The list is a recitation of ideas submitted by City Hall staffers covering numerous issues that extend beyond recreation.

The entry in the list concerning the prospects of a dog park outside the Library and Education Center indicated that the discussions were in progress. An initial target date for a dog park was in May, with a revised date in July. Both of the targets have passed with there seeming to be little progrss toward deciding whether to open a dog park at the site.

Matt Twombly, a City Hall staffer who helps design municipal parks, said the Recreation Advisory Board, which holds some influence on matters like a dog park, is discussing options.

According to Twombly, some of the options could eventually include:

putting up fences on all or part of the field

installing signs designating the field an off-leash area

installing signs requesting dog owners clean up after their pets

installing signs allowing dogs off leashes at certain times

"It may become more popular. I don’t know," Twombly said.

Twombly said additional discussions are needed with the Recreation Advisory Board before an idea could be put before the mayor and City Council. He said the elected officials could consider the idea later this year. Under that timeline, it would be expected that, should a dog park be endorsed, it could open sometime in 2011. It is not clear what sort of approval process would be necessary for a dog park to be put outside the Library and Education Center.

The community support for a formal dog park at the field is difficult to gauge. There would likely be widespread backing from people who use the park now like McGee. They would be expected to argue that the field is more convenient than the Quinn’s Junction dog park and a better place for their pets given its level plane and expanse of grass. The dog park at Quinn’s Junction is situated a distance from any neighborhood while the field outside the Library and Education Center is surrounded by Old Town.

Ideas in the past to build a dog park inside a neighborhood, however, have been resisted by people who live nearby, and City Hall could encounter similar opposition if it bids to make a formal dog park outside the Library and Education Center.

McGee, the owner of Otis, the bloodhound puppy, prefers the field to the Quinn’s Junction dog park, saying it is much easier to get to and is lush compared to the setting at Quinn’s Junction.

"It’s essentially a party for the dogs and us," she said. "I love it the way it is."