Turns out there is more than one way to kill a dog park.
There has been a lot of discussion on the dog park that was proposed by the WOOF group at Sunnyside Park. Proponents of the park have (Rightly) state all the benefits of dog parks, inlcuding providing a forum for people to gather with people of their own interests, it's a great area for people to exercise and socialize their dogs which is good for dogs (and for people too, as well exercised and socialized dogs lack the aggressive qualities of dogs that don't get these opportunities), and that a very large percent of the population (about 44%) own dogs. They also pointed out that with 250,000+ dog owners in the KC metro, and 215 parks, there is exactly 1 dedicated off-leash area. This group may be under-served.
Opponents of the plan, and to the best I can tell there were exactly 11 of them city-wide, state two main reasons why the dog-park is a bad idea 1) that it will only serve a limited number of people and 2) that it will create a huge overcrowding problem in the park that will cause parking problems at the park (when is parking NOT an issue for someone any time this city tries to build anything). I don't really need to point out (I wouldn't think) that these two ideas are contradictory.
So what's a park board to do? Change the rules.
In a last minute change to the agenda today, the parks board proposed and voted on an amendment to a new provision in the city's dog park guidelines, without any discussion from the people in the room that was so full people were spilling out the door. The two amendendments were:
1) Locate off-leash areas in large community and regional parks where appropriate and space is available.
2) Avoid areas that are abut or are in close proximity to neighborhoods and residences.
The head of the Parks Board, Fiero quickly noted that these now ruled out Sunnyside Park as a dog park possibility and moved on to the next agenda item.
I'm not implying that this was a back-room deal by anyone, but the press release on these amendments was available 30 seconds after the vote took place.
So let's look at the new rules. Last time I checked, KCMO was an URBAN area...which means that pretty much every single park in the city is in close proximity to neighborhoods and residences. In fact, from the sounds of this, the current Penn Valley Dog Park is going to go away soon because of new condos that are being built at the Trinity Hospital site at 31st and Main -- which will be very close to that dog park. So the rules are impressively vague, to the point that virtually nothing could be used for a dog park.
If you look at the KCMO Parks Reference Book, there are certainly a very small percentage of KCMO's parks that even come close to fitting the criteria -- and almost all of them are either in the furthest out Southern suburbs, or in the Northland. There is certainly no opportunity for any dog parks in the city's urban core.
As one man pointed out at the meeting, the Parks and Recreation department set KCMO's parks back about 10 years today. While nearly every single metro in the country is rushing to add dog parks to meet the growing demand (St. Louis currently has 11 dog parks, and 9 more in the planning stages), KCMO made sure that there would be little opportunity for more here.
It just shows if you don't like progress, and it seems inevitable, it's ok to just change the rules if you're in city government. It just doesn't much matter what those piddly old citizens think.
Editor's Update #1: Looks like my link to the dog park guidelines is to the NEW guidelines -- I hadn't noticed, but they got the new dogpark guidelines up on the web within an hour of the meeting being over. That's efficiency.