Yesterday, KMBC TV ran an article about how Mayor Funkhouser is concerned that citizens don't feel safe in the city's parks.
I won't get into the complete absurdity that the "news" station focused its story on Loose Park -- easily among the city's safest parks -- as opposed to focusing on the parks that have even bigger issues.
But I do want to propose a solution...that actually improves two problems in one.
One of the reasons that people don't necessarily feel safe in many of the city's parks is because most of the parks have relatively few people in them. If there are other people around, they feel safe, because if "something happened" there would be someone there to help them. So as people quit going to parks, parks become less populated, which makes them feel less safe, and the cycle continues. There is nothing that makes someone feel unsafe like being the only person in an empty area with a lot of trees/wooded areas around for unsavories to hide and stash their bodies.
So let's create something that will instantly draw people to the parks -- getting bodies in the parks will perpetuate itself.
An easy way to do this is to build a lot of smaller-sized dog parks (small in size, but not necessarily for small dogs -- although some should be for that too). Roughly 45% of Kansas Citians own dogs...most would love a close, convenient dog park for their dogs to run, play and socialize with other dogs.
The City of Calgary, Ontario has 83 total dog parks in the city -- a community that's roughly double the population of Kansas City, MO -- which has 1 dog park and is working on a 2nd.
Calgary's rush to build a lot of dog parks has happened over the past 15 years to solve a completely different problem. In 1985, Calgary had a peak in dog-related incidents -- at approximately 2,000 incidences. Since then, they've adopted other policies and built over 4,500 acres of dog parks (totalling approximately 25% of their total park space). In 2006, they had only 400 dog-related incidents in spite of doubling the human and dog population in that time. Even with that much dog-park land, Bill Bruce, the head of animal control in Calgary, says that their off-leash areas are almost maxed out. (Editor's Note: I would like to note that Mr. Bruce is going to be coming to Kansas City on September 15 for the Canine Legislation Conference to talk about the success of Calgary's dog ordinance -- in a talk that we do intend to open up to local civic leaders who would be interested in finding out about how a real affective ordinance works -- so put it on your calendar if you're interested).
So let's see, if we use a larger portion of Kansas City's 9,776 acres of park space to dog parks, not only would they increase attendence at parks (that everyone benefits from, because with some of the park space in use, the rest of it becomes "safer" because there are other people around), we can increase the usage of public parks, AND help increase the socialization of the city's dogs and make the city's citizens safer from non-socialized dogs.
If money is the problem, let's use Mark Forsythe's idea (damn you Mark for beating me to this as I SHOULD be both a better dog person and advertising person than you) presented here (see Nov 10 entry) and sell advertising on the fencing to companies looking to reach dog people (there are a lot of them).
Problems solved. More used parks. Safer parks. More dog-friendly areas and thus fewer dog attacks. Mostly paid for by advertisers.
Just a thought.