~ by Bob Volpe ~
It was standing room only at last week’s regular meeting of the Woodland Park City Council, courtesy of a biting issue: a future dog park downtown.
The majority of those who attended came to speak for or against a proposal to develop a canine-friendly hub on city-owned parkland adjacent to Fountain Creek, also known as the Fountain Creek Greenway.
The proposed dog park is the brainchild of Bianca Bryant. Bryant is a senior girl scout in Troop 3649 working on her girl scout gold award project. She is a 16-year-old junior at Woodland Park High School. Her proposal would create a three-quarter acre dog park between the Fountain Creek Greenway and the American Discovery Trail.
Bryant’s objective is to partner with the city in developing the park, raise money for materials and create a volunteer workforce to perform the work. Her goal is to complete the project by June 2019.
The project came before council on September 9. At that time Bryant gave a detailed description of
what she hoped would be a place, “Where a dog could be a dog.” During that September meeting, the council agreed to bring the issue to a public hearing, in order to hear from residents living in close proximity to the proposed park.
It wasn’t until one-and-a-half hours into last week’s meeting that the issue was even discussed. Despite the long wait, the council chambers remained packed with citizens who wanted to speak.
Mayor Neil Levy began the discussion by laying down some ground rules for those who wished to speak about the issue. Levy assured everyone that they would all be able to speak, but he warned them that, “I’m not going to allow you to come up and say the same thing over, and over, and over again. So if you have new information, this council wants to hear, the staff wants to hear. We’re trying to make the best
possible decision we can.”
At the start of the hearing, Bryant gave her presentation. She spoke about the popularity of dog parks across the nation and how the site next to Fountain Creek is an ideal location for the facility. She
went into great detail about other possible locations she considered, outlining the pros and cons of each alternate site.
Before coming to council, Bryant conducted an informal poll on the local community Facebook page to see where residents would like to see a dog park. The options were Florissant, Divide, and Woodland
Park. The results of the poll were the following: 5 percent Florissant, 22 percent Divide, and 73 percent Woodland Park.
Bryant’s plan was supported by local community leaders, organizations, and experts who spoke in favor of the dog park. Among those who spoke up for the project were: Shawn Nielson of Focus on the
Forest; a post engineer at Fort Carson who oversaw the building of the dog park on Fort Carson; Lisa Lima, who is a local business person, Pat Hyslop, who serves on the Keep Woodland Park Beautiful committee, Sue Battig, a representative from Teller County Regional Animal Shelter, and an Army veteran, who spoke about the science behind the issue of dog waste and the myths that lead to people’s fears of waste contamination.
When the hearing was opened to public comment, 15 residents spoke up in favor of the proposal
and only four spoke against the plan.
All those who spoke against the proposal did agree a dog park is a good idea, they just felt the proposed location was not the right place for the canine hangout. The most vocal of those who disapproved of the project were residents who live on Woodland Avenue, which is the street the park would be built on. The major complaints they cited were pollution from dog waste, barking dogs, excess traffic, property values, and the usual, NIMBY (not in my backyard) argument.
When it came time for the council to consider the proposal, all council members expressed concern over local residents who would be affected by the plan, and that a dog park would be better suited at a different location. Despite the strong public support for the dog park plan, council axed the plan. This occurred without a formal vote and was based on an overall consensus.
Absent from the council dog discussion were members Paul Saunier and Noel Sawyer.
However, city leaders still aren’t ready to throw in the towel regarding the prospects of having a dog park in Woodland Park.
Council member Kellie Case invited Bryant to the next DDA (Downtown Development Authority) meeting to possibly put the dog park in the Woodland Station area.