The Anoka County Board and the city councils of Andover and Coon Rapids have approved a new county dog park on the west side of Bunker Hills Regional Park that could be open later this summer.
After the new dog park opens, the Coon Rapids City Council at a subsequent meeting will decide if it wants to keep its existing dog park at Trackside Park open, according to Tim Himmer, Coon Rapids public works director.
Some neighbors of that seven-year-old dog park have been frustrated with the barking dogs, but other residents from both Coon Rapids and other communities want it to remain open.
Coon Rapids had considered constructing another dog park in Evergreen Business Park as part of its park bond issue going to voters this November, but it was removed from the proposed projects included in the referendum because a majority of residents responding to a city survey opposed it.
Andover does not have a dog park. A few residents had tried to get one next to the Andover Station North ball fields but never were able to raise enough money.
“People want it,” said County Commissioner Carol LeDoux, who represents the area where the new dog park will be located just east of the county’s compost site and sheriff’s office gun range and south of the Bunker Hills archery range.
The most recent cost estimate from Anoka County Parks and Recreation Director John VonDeLinde is $40,586, which will be split equally three ways. The cost is lower than VonDeLinde first anticipated because everyone is contributing in-kind labor.
Anoka County will do the tree clearing, restoration and signage. Andover will provide the labor and equipment to prepare and grade the site. Coon Rapids is responsible for plan preparation, construction staking, providing Class 5 material and project administration.
The only elected official from the county board and two city councils to oppose the new dog park was Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah.
“As much as I like dogs myself, I have trouble justifying spending taxpayer dollars on dog parks when there are so many other needs in the county,” said Sivarajah.
Sivarajah opposed the county’s other dog park at Locke Park in Fridley, she said.
According to Sivarajah, there are plenty of streets and city parks where people can walk their dogs.
Even though this new park will give dogs a larger area to run around, their owners must still be in control and be able to tell their dogs to come back to them.
LeDoux said a new dog park was not necessarily a high priority for her, but she saw that it was for Andover and Coon Rapids and said it gives a large area for dogs to run around.
At 6.58 acres, this second county dog park will be twice the size of the dog park in Fridley, according to VonDeLinde.
A dog park has been part of the Bunker Hills Regional Park master plan since 1999, but other priorities came up, VonDeLinde said.
The location is ideal, he said, because it is not in a neighborhood.
LeDoux said the cost has been reduced because the county already owned the land.
Andover Mayor Mike Gamache said while this county dog park is not as centrally located as the one at Andover Station North would have been, this is still a good location for Andover residents because those who would be more likely to use it are in the southern area of the city where smaller lots makes it difficult for the larger dogs to roam as freely.
Gamache also likes that this new dog park is large enough to have separate areas for small and large dogs.
“It’s the best of both worlds and it’s making use of a park area that wasn’t really being used,” he said.
According to Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe, the city has been working on this project for two years and he was very pleased that it has become a reality.
“The cost is very inexpensive,” Howe said.
Coon Rapids will pay for its share of the construction cost from its park improvement budget, Himmer said.
VonDeLinde said the site in the past was used to store trees downed by storms. He said if need be, the county and cities could work together to locate a suitable alternative site or sites.
One issue that was not discussed, but public officials were asked about, was whether they were concerned about the sound of gunfire from the nearby sheriff’s office gun range agitating dogs.
Gamache said this will need to be monitored in case it becomes an issue.
Sivarajah said the gun range has been there for years and the county wants to be a good neighbor.
LeDoux lives within a mile of the gun range and says it sounds like firecrackers to her. She said some dogs will react poorly to this noise, so dog owners will have to know how to calm down their dogs or leave the park if they do not stop barking.
“Common sense should prevail at some point,” LeDoux said.
The joint powers agreement approved by the three agencies spells out the cost sharing of both the construction of the dog park and its maintenance.
Under the agreement, the county will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the dog park (mowing, trash, repairs etc.), with Andover and Coon Rapids sharing equally in the costs, according to Himmer.
Editor’s note: Peter Bodley, managing editor, contributed to this story.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]