Trackside Dog Park in Coon Rapids will close Sept. 15.
The Coon Rapids City Council was unanimous in its decision Aug. 20 to shut down the dog park, which has been located at the city park since November 2006.
The decision to close Trackside comes in the wake of the opening of a new regional dog park in Anoka County’s Bunker Hills Regional Park adjacent to the compost site on 133rd Avenue off Hanson Boulevard in the northern part of Coon Rapids.
That dog park, a joint project of the county and the cities of Andover and Coon Rapids, opened Aug. 5.
For the past couple of years, the council has heard from residents living in the immediate neighborhood of Trackside Dog Park at 104th Avenue and Hummingbird Street that the dog park was a detriment to their quality of life, primarily because of noise and parking issues.
A year ago when the new Bunker Hills dog park was in the planning stages, the council made it clear that it would consider closing Trackside when the new dog park opened.
At that time, the council also heard from other residents of the Trackside Park area as well as other parts of Coon Rapids and outside the city calling for the dog park to remain.
A petition with more than 200 signatures was presented to the council in August 2012 calling for Trackside to stay open, while a petition of nine people living adjacent to the dog park was given to council to shut it down.
Similar sentiments were expressed at the council’s Aug. 20 meeting by a large audience, both for and against the dog park at Trackside remaining.
According to Mayor Tim Howe, he never envisioned that Trackside would be so popular when the council approved the location in 2006.
“It has become a victim of its own success and an unintended monster,” Howe said.
He said he expected four or five people and their dogs to use the dog park a day, maybe 10, but not the numbers from all over the city and outside Coon Rapids that have made it a regional facility.
“Neighbors have been impacted greatly and I, for one, would not want to be living next to a dog park,” Howe said.
Several councilmembers said that dog parks did not belong in a residential neighborhood because of their negative impact on the quality of life.
The only question in the minds of councilmembers was when the dog park at Trackside would close, not if.
Howe wanted a Sept. 1 closing date, Councilmember Ron Manning suggested Oct. 1, while Councilmember Paul Johnson proposed the end of the year as was recommended by staff if council’s decision was to close the dog park.
The council then settled on Councilmember Bruce Sanders’ motion to set Sept. 15 as the closing date.
The issue with shutting down Trackside Dog Park right away was concerns raised by both councilmembers and dog owners in the audience, who wanted Trackside to stay open permanently, about the condition of the new dog park.
For one thing there are no benches and tables right now; Public Works Director Tim Himmer said they were scheduled to be in place by the end of August.
While the new dog park is 6.58 acres in size, the terrain is rough, with pot holes in places, large weeds in which small dogs can disappear and sand burrs which attach themselves to the dog’s fur and are painful, or as Manning put it “cruel,” for the dog when removed.
There were also complaints about the fencing, which some dog owners said is not tall enough to prevent large dogs from jumping over and not close enough to the ground that small dogs can crawl underneath it, as well a proximity to the Anoka County Gun Range, where guns being fired can be a problem for dogs with sensitive hearing.
According to Himmer, the county, which has charge of maintenance under the joint powers agreement between the county and the two cities, will be mowing the dog park area, while top soil will be put down and seeding will take place in the area surrounding the paved parking lot, which was constructed as part of the dog park project.
“There will be some tweaking,” Himmer said.
But any large-scale improvements won’t happen unless the county and two cities agree to them because they will cost more money, according to City Manger Steve Gatlin.
The initial plans for the dog park had a price tag of $200,000, but they were scaled back to a project that cost some $50,000 divided three ways between the agencies, Gatlin said.
The fenced dog park area at Trackside was originally designed as a storm water holding pond for the runoff from the adjacent Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks and the residential area, Himmer said.
That’s what it will revert back to when the dog park is closed with the fencing staying in place and the dog park entrance closed off, he said.
The rest of Trackside Park with its playground area and picnic benches will not be impacted, Gatlin said.
When Howe opened the dog park closing issue for comments from the audience, the residents on Hummingbird and 104th were adamant that the dog park should be shut down.
Mike Carter, who lives on Hummingbird and has led the effort to get rid of the dog park, said that it was a quiet neighborhood when he moved in 35 years ago, but the dog park changed all that with the parking issues caused by those using the dog park, the noise and smell from the dogs in the park and incidents involving dog park users and neighbors.
“The mob has ruled and our peace has been disturbed,” he said. “A mob can’t overpower the minority.”
Another Hummingbird Street resident said there is a lot of difference living 41 feet from the dog park and 400 feet away. “It is a public nuisance,” he said.
But dog park users at the meeting, several of whom walk to Trackside with their animals, told the council that the dog park had become a social gathering place where friends had been made and dogs were under control.
There is a sense of community for the users of the dog park, one resident said.
“Trackside is a wonderful place to meet new friends,” another resident said.
In fact, some residents said they would be willing to pay a fee to use Trackside if it remained a dog park to help pay for its upkeep and monitoring by the city.
And one resident who lives near the Trackside Dog Park and uses it said that it was a wasteland before the dog park was created and he feared it would become a wasteland again and a dumping ground for garbage.
“Tons of people from the neighborhood use Trackside Dog Park,” another resident said. “We all love it.”
According to a Grouse Street resident in the neighborhood of Trackside, the dog park is a great addition to the neighborhood and a “wonderful use” of what was a wasteland.
“It would be a shame to close it.”
But the council was not swayed. “A dog park does not work in a residential neighborhood,” Howe said.
Councilmember Steve Wells agreed. “Dog parks don’t belong in a residential neighborhood,” he said.
While 90 percent of the people that use the dog park are responsible, “there are some bad apples” as he found when he was Coon Rapids police chief, Wells said.
Sanders and Councilmember Jerry Koch said that the dog park users had created their own subculture community.
“But the neighborhood has been negatively impacted and this has become a regional asset,” Koch said.
Lots of people contacted Johnson on this issue and they are very passionate about it staying open or closing, he said.
“But it has become a tremendous burden on the resident living across from the dog park,” Johnson said.
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