Dog Park 1

The River Valley Dog Park Association hopes to establish a new dog park in St. Peter, outside of the flood zone. (Photo courtesy of the River Valley Dog Park Association)

The possibilities for a new dog park in St. Peter just expanded.

At its Sept. 23 meeting, the City Council voted to allow parks within the city’s industrial zoning districts, opening up more locations for a potential dog park. The council voted with little discussion, as Mayor Chuck Zieman noted the Planning Commission 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 $50,000 fundraising goal, but a location for the park still remains in question. The specific industrial zoned area the city is eyeing is at North Swift Street, across from the St. Peter Armory. Wille said the area could be enclosed by a chain link fence with off-street parking nearby.

“I think this is the ideal location for a dog park,” he told the Planning Commission in July. “It shouldn’t be disruptive in any way.”

Planning Commission members had their say on the idea.

“I was on the Parks and Recreation Board when we were working on the dog park thing, and there’s no place to do it if we don’t do it [somewhere] like this,” said Ken Rossow. “I think this is a great idea.”

Commission member Kelly Henry brought up concerns about the odor in the area from the St. Peter Water Plant.

“Have people spent time in that area?” she asked. “I had no idea that that corner smells so bad. I feel like no matter what we do, this could a bigger problem because of the smell.”

Wille acknowledged that the area did smell bad sometimes but said he only noticed it a few times a month, when the atmospheric conditions were particularly bad.

After some discussion, the commission agreed to move forward with changing the city ordinance. Wille will work on the amendment and bring it back to the commission at a future meeting.

The St. Peter City Council, meanwhile, voiced support for a potential dog park location during a work session in July. Public Works Director Moulton introduced the topic to the council, noting his continued work with the RVDPA.

“There is quite a need in our community,” Moulton said.

By the time the zoning change recommendation officially came to the council Sept. 23, the group was seemingly confident in the measure. Wille explained why staff was also OK with the change.

“There was a comfort, given that it was city owned, that the City Council would use the appropriate discretion and come to the right decision on judiciously locating parks in the (Industrial 1) and (Industrial 2) districts,” he said.

Looking ahead

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.

“We are working in relationship with the city, and so if they’re supportive of this location, that’s really what we can roll forward with,” she said.

Public Works Director Moulton said in July that the timeline for a potential new dog park includes three phases.

The first phase is about obtaining the land, putting up a chain link fence and hooking up water to the site. He estimates this phase will cost about $32,000. Meanwhile, phases two and three will be more about adding more amenities, such as off-street parking, benches and enclosed facilities. Most of the funds will be raised by the RVDPA, though Moulton said it could be possible for the city to offer some in-kind funds.

Moulton said the timeline includes three phases. The first phase is about obtaining the land, putting up a chain link fence and hooking up water to the site. He estimates this phase will cost about $32,000. Meanwhile, phases two and three will be more about adding more amenities, such as off-street parking, benches and enclosed facilities. Most of the funds will be raised by the RVDPA, though Moulton said it could be possible for the city to offer some in-kind funds.

Mayor Chuck Zieman asked if it would be possible to salvage any of the materials from the old park to reuse at the new location, but Moulton said most of the materials are in too rough of a condition. The park’s fence was already used when the city installed it.

Lane said the goal is to utilize “nicer materials” this time so that they can last longer, adding that the cost of superior building materials was factored into the group’s fundraising budget.

Councilor Stephen Grams asked what will happen to the old park, and Moulton said his department is still evaluating the possibilities. He said he hopes to be able to maintain the park to previous conditions for dryer years, but he said if it’s not successful, they would most likely remove the fence and discontinue use there.

Reach Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-931-8567 or follow him on Twitter @EditorPhilipWeyhe. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. 

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