SANDPOINT — A group of community members hope to, one day soon, bring local pups together in one location where they can run and play in their very own park.
"This park is what the community needs," said Ericka Mattsson with Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park. "For many people, dogs are family. There is nothing that makes people happier than seeing their little ones playing and having a wonderful time."
The group is one step closer to their objective after the majority of City Council members present at last week's meeting gave their support of the idea and location with an official vote.
The proposed location for the Sandpoint Dog Park is Lakeview Park, adjacent to Memorial Field. The group plans to install a fenced in, off-leash location for the dogs in the grassy area near the water, between the boat ramp and the water treatment plant.
Mattsson asked council to support the location in order for the group to apply for a $25,000 PetSafe grant to fund the project. They are also pursuing local grant options, Mattsson said. The PetSafe grant requires a nonprofit status, so the group is utilizing the status of Kaniksu Land Trust to apply. Mattsson made an additional request that the city fund the first phase of the project, which would include the fence and water access. At about $17,000 for those costs, council did not approve that request.
"I don't feel comfortable committing to funding at this point, considering where we are and getting ready to prepare our budget," said Councilwoman Shannon Williamson. "... I am in favor of giving our support if that is what the council decides to do to pursue the application."
Mattsson said the group has engaged the community in several different ways over the past few months, including going door-to-door with fliers to residents in the park area, holding a public information meeting at the proposed location, posting information on the Friends of Sandpoint Dog Park Facebook page and meeting with city officials. The group also circulated a petition for those in favor of the park, which Mattsson said is up to 402 names.
At least one resident who lives in the area of the park is concerned about the implications of having a dog park in the proposed location. Speaking during the public comment portion, a neighbor of the park brought forth some concerns regarding those in the city who don't own dogs but enjoy the waterfront area and pet waste so close to the water, among other things. He said it would make more sense to have a park in a more central location in the city.
"If it were more centrally located, you would increase walking trips to the park rather than increase driving trips," he said.
Three of the four council members present — Thomas Eddy, Stephen Snedden and Williamson — voted in support of the resolution. Councilwoman Deb Ruehle, although in support of a dog park, still held some reservations, so while the resolution passed, it was not a unanimous decision.
"I appreciate the really hard work that has gone into this, but I feel uncomfortable because I don't feel like I've really had the opportunity to potentially vet other locations and I'm worried about the commercialization of it," Ruehle said. "I do believe in the dog park — I think it's spectacular — but I am going to vote no at this point."
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