A new dog park location in St. Peter is picked and approved; now it’s just a matter of paying for it.
At its Monday meeting, the City Council voted to approve designating about 1,000 square feet of city-owned land at the corner of North Swift Street and St. Julien Street as a dog park. The location includes plenty of green space, in addition to trees already on site for shade. Most importantly, it is out of the flood zone.
“The (St. Peter Parks and Recreation Board) set up the criteria for evaluation because we did have multiple sites,” Public Works Director Pete Moulton said. “One criteria was a dry location that could be drained and open year-round. Also important were easy access and open green space.”
Construction on the park could start this fall if final fundraising dollars are gathered, but it’s most likely to wait until spring 2020.
At its Sept. 23 meeting, the City Council voted to allow parks within the city’s industrial zoning districts, opening up more locations, including the North Swift Street one, for a potential dog park. The council voted with little discussion, as Mayor Chuck Zieman noted the Planning Commission and Parks Board would have thoroughly vetted the topic.
The proposal to change the zoning rules, Community Development Director Russ Wille noted, was initially brought to the city’s Parks Department by an outside group: the River Valley Dog Park Association. This is a locally organized group aiming to create a new option for dog owners in the area, as the current dog park in St. Peter, located near the Minnesota River, continues to flood.
The group has been chipping away at its fundraising goal, and will be asked to contribute $32,000 for the first phase of the project, which involves getting the park up and running — the group has $25,000 on hand with fundraising events to come. The city plans to contribute $12,336 from the Parks fund for phase one. Future phases to build the park up further would require additional funding from both sides.
“We treat the RVDPA in a similar way to a softball association or baseball association in the community,” City Administrator Todd Prafke said. “There are certain levels the city provides using taxpayer dollars, but beyond that, we look to some of those associations to decide how things should look and where things should go. What amenities are they looking for? What do they think works best to serve the population they’re trying to serve?”
He continued, “So our philosophy is very different than what you might see in other communities, and we think it provides great results and a large amount of community input as people work toward goals they have. So for example, if you are a member of a soccer association in, say, Rochester, they pay the city for field time. In St. Peter, they don’t. But in St. Peter, if they want additional amenities, they help pay and plan those additional amenities.”
The planned location for the dog park at North Swift Street is across from the St. Peter Armory and near the city’s wastewater treatment center. St. Peter Community Development Director Russ Wille said the area could easily be enclosed by a chain link fence with off-street parking nearby.
According to RVDPA President Abbey Lane, before selecting North Swift, the group originally came up with four locations for a new park, but most of the other ones ended up not working for various reasons. While there are some drawbacks to the proposed site, such as the smell from the water treatment plant on some days of the month, Lane said she and the group are still happy overall.
“I’m happy we’re moving forward with the location,” she said. “I think this one has the most positives of the ones we’ve been looking at. There’s a negative smell sometimes, but it’s not there all the time. We are using what was available to us. Dog parks aren’t always the No. 1 priority for everybody in town. The positives outweigh the negatives.”
For Lane, one of the biggest benefits of the proposed location is its safety. The current dog park is located in a more secluded spot, and some dog owners have voiced concerns about being there alone. In contrast, the proposed location is well lit and very visible to traffic. At the same time, since the location isn’t close to any residential areas, Lane said noise shouldn’t be a problem for homeowners.
Public Works Director Pete Moulton noted that the old dog park, across from the old Whiskey River, is not actually in St. Peter city limits. In fact, it’s not even in Nicollet County. Being on the other side of the Hwy. 99 bridge, the land is in Le Sueur County, and the city leases the land from the county.
Moulton said the old park will continue to operate, even as the new one opens. But if flooding persists at that location, “we’ll abandon it.”
In addition to being floodproof, the new location will allow for water to be built in, so dog owners can access it for their pets through some kind of fountain. The old park needed water brought in on a truck, one load at a time. The new location is also closer to residential neighborhoods in the city — though it’s certainly on the north side of town.
Overall, city staff were happy to assist the River Valley Dog Park Association in its mission to bring an improved amenity to St. Peter.
“I think any time you can do something for the betterment of the community, that draws people together, that makes a community a community, that’s what we’re interested in,” Moulton said.