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Neighbors growl at dog park

Neighbors growled at an idea to build a dog park on the edge of Park Meadows on Thursday night as pet owners lobbied the Park City Council for such a park.

Fido, however, did not testify during the boisterous meeting, attended by some people wearing stickers emblazoned with paw prints.

In a dispute that pits people who live nearby, some saying they are dog lovers, against Park City’s large dog-owning population, the elected officials were not ready to decide whether to pursue a dog park. The City Council delayed choosing whether to instruct City Hall staffers to file the necessary applications to build the park for at least three weeks. They want information about other potential sites.

But the Thursday meeting was a preview of what could be a springtime dispute if the staffers decide the location is the best site for a dog park. And, with Parkites famous for their dog-loving habits — sometimes Park City is called ‘Bark City’ — the upcoming discussions could mobilize people from outside the neighborhood, turning what would typically be seen as a localized dispute into one that could have citywide ramifications.

Park City recreation officials, with backing from the City Council, are eyeing about two acres of land at the base of the PC Hill, on the eastern edge of Park City near the fields off Kearns Boulevard. The land is near Treasure Mountain International School and the ground is now vacant. The city estimates it will cost $20,000 to build a fence for the park and there is talk that a group of supporters could conduct a fundraising campaign.

The neighbors condemned the idea, arguing that a dog park could ruin the area. The park, they claimed, would be unattractive, aggressive dogs would intimidate other ones and the park would displace other wildlife. There were also worries that the park could bring down the value of nearby property.

But the supporters said dog parks in other communities are successful, the park would be an asset to Park City and the park is sensible.

About 15 people testified to the City Council, a rare showing for an item that was not scheduled for a hearing. Those would be set later if City Hall pursues the park. In that case, the Park City Planning Commission would be required to consider a permit.

Greg Schirf, who lives nearby, said the park would be "unsightly" and an "eyesore" on land that is otherwise undeveloped. He predicted dogfights would occur inside.

Roz Cohn, who also lives nearby, is concerned about the value of her property. She testified on Thursday night and, earlier in March, e-mailed City Councilors. In the e-mail, which City Hall released early in the week, Cohn says, "we don’t want more traffic, noise, and falling property values."

"Dogs are wonderful animals, but they are noisy. Having all of Park City’s dog population descend on us each day is not something we look forward to," Cohn says in the e-mail.

But Rich Wyman, a supporter who lives in Prospector, said people who do not own dogs might stop by to cheer themselves up, calling dog parks "peaceful, pleasant places to go."

"The list of benefits is long," Wyman said.

Park City has long been seen as a dog-friendly community, with a network of trails, large swaths of open spaces, creeks and swimming and wading ponds. The dogs, many people say, are charming and further distance Park City from more urbanized areas.

But loose dogs have annoyed lots of Parkites, who worry about the safety of kids and adults as dogs are seen roaming off leashes, especially in Old Town. The critics also say they are disgusted with dog droppings, claim the dogs rummage through trash cans and Dumpsters and chase other dogs and wildlife.

It is unclear what other sites the staffers might identify when they return to the City Council. On Thursday, places like the field on the north side of the Park City Library and Education Center and City Park were mentioned but neither seemed favored over other places that might be proposed.


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