The Northfield City Council discussed the possibility of moving the city’s dog park to a new location during its work session Tuesday night.
The existing Northfield Dog Park is located at Babcock Park, but members of the Park and Recreation Advisory Board suggested moving the park to Odd Fellows Park instead.
According to board chair Dale Gehring, members have considered the idea for a year and a half after concerns were raised about how the current dog park affects activities during Defeat of Jesse James Days. Gehring said the board is working to develop the city’s “undeveloped” parks and thought it would be a good time to use the land at Odd Fellows Park for a dog park, citing the presence of trails already at the park and the fact that the location is reasonably centralized for residents.
“People are already using it as a dog park,” he said.
The proposed site would include 12 acres of fenced-in dog park and a parking area outside the fence. While no budget has been created yet, Gehring said he estimated the fencing alone would cost about $13,000, and the board has appropriated $20,000 for the project over the next two years. He added that the board is looking for sponsorships and talking to the Cannon Valley Veterinary Clinic as a possible partner for the park.
There has also been discussion about a multi-use trail that would surround the new planned park outside the fenced area and perhaps connect to other trails. According to Assistant City Engineer Brian Erickson, this trail would start as a woodchip trail but eventually be paved.
While councilors agreed that the current dog park can be a problem during DJJD, they were concerned about the proposed site, which is mostly woods.
“I could spend all day looking for my dog [there],” said Mayor Dana Graham. “It’s an ugly dog park that we have now, but it’s open, and you know where your dog is.”
Councilors also expressed concern about the cost of clearing out the underbrush and making paths clear enough for walkers and their dogs.
Councilor Suzie Nakasian asked about the possibility of creating several smaller dog parks in neighborhoods, which Gehring said the park board has been discussing.
“This could be the first of a series of neighborhood dog parks,” he said.
Councilor Rhonda Pownell asked whether community members had been surveyed about their desires for a dog park, adding that other sites with more wide-open spaces seemed more ideal.
“I’m a little skeptical that [the site] is an appropriate location,” she said.
Councilor Erica Zweifel said that, since the Armstrong Road intersection near the proposed site is so busy, she would like a traffic study to see how the park could affect the intersection.
“It would seem that there were some concerns here that the park board would need to address,” Graham said. “I think it’s a challenge. We’d like to see some other ideas, too.”
Gehring said the board plans to hold neighborhood meetings to gather more feedback about what Northfield residents want for a dog park. The park board will come back to the City Council with a more defined plan at a later council meeting.
Grace Webb covers the cities of Northfield and Lonsdale, and writes about public safety. You can reach her at 645-1117.