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Crosslake: Council OKs dog park on city land

The area highlighted in red is the acre of property to be turned into a dog park near the Crosslake Community Center. Submitted image.

About 1 acre of newly acquired city land near the Crosslake Community Center is set to become a dog park.

Despite some opposition from neighbors, those in favor drowned out those opposed as the Crosslake City Council approved the project during a special meeting Monday, May 21, according to information obtained from city hall after the meeting. Mike O'Connell, Crosslaker chair and dog park committee co-chair, said the council voted 4-0 to support the project, with council member Brad Nelson absent.

The idea for a dog park came out of the Minnesota Design Team's 2016 visit to Crosslake, where it was identified as one of the community's top interests. Since that time, the Crosslakers - a citizen work group formed in conjunction with the MDT's visit - has been working to find a suitable location for the project and learned that a dog park must be on public property for insurance purposes.

After the pursuit of a previous location - Department of Natural Resources property near the intersection of county roads 36 and 37 - stalled, the group came upon the land near the community center. The city acquired the 9.1-acre lot adjoining the community center property during a special meeting April 27, with several potential uses in mind, such as: hiking and ski trails, an additional disc golf course, a sledding hill and a dog park.

After the council's Monday decision, about 1 acre of that land will become a dog park.

"We're excited with the outcome of the city's approval, and now we start the process of the design and sources of funding," O'Connell said after the meeting.

The project doesn't come without opposition though, as 25 residents on Egret and Daggett Pine roads, whose property adjoins the newly acquired land, sent a petition to the city council and parks and recreation board opposing the dog park. Along with the petition was a letter signed by property owners Sadie Hoag, Sharon Corbin and Gary Nordstrom, representing those who signed the petition.

The letter said residents were not notified of the dog park proposal and worried about problems that could come along with the project, including: fighting, barking, loose dogs, stench from urine and fecal deposits and transfer of dog diseases. The letter alluded to a study showing a 5-10 percent decrease in property values of homes adjoining dog parks.

Other potential problems the letter said should be considered are: dogs with rude greeting skills, bringing in female dogs that are pregnant or in heat, puppies under 12 weeks old, dogs with incomplete vaccinations and inattentive or "bully" dogs.

Pequot Lakes and Brainerd have dog parks, but the letter said those parks are not close to homes, and claimed the Pequot Lakes park has had problems with barking, fighting, unattended dogs and a definitive urine smell.

Many of those claims, however, were negated in a letter to O'Connell from Pequot Lakes City Administrator Nancy Malecha, who said the city has gotten no noise or vandalism complaints against the park and continues to receive positive comments from users.

Brainerd Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer wrote similar remarks regarding his city's dog park in a May 3 letter to the Crosslake City Council.

"There were concerns by the public when the concept of the park was first brought forward. However, in the five years it has been open, to my knowledge there has never been a fight amongst dogs, nor have the police ever been called," Sailer's letter said. "Never has Parks staff needed to clean up after the dogs. ... Nobody has ever complained about barking and, in my visits to the park, I have never heard a dog bark other than a playful 'yip' as dogs socialize."

Through the submission of property images, it was also determined that both the Pequot Lakes and Brainerd dog parks are just as close or closer to homes than the proposed Crosslake park.

In regard to dog parks affecting property values, a letter to the council from Rob Birkeland, of Larson Group Real Estate/Keller Williams Realty Professions, said a property near the Pequot Lakes dog park sold after 12 days on the market in 2016 for more than it had originally been purchased for years before the park's creation.

"During negotiation of said offer, the dog park never arose as a deterrent to the buyer's interest in the property," the letter read.

One speaker at Monday's meeting, who lives in Ideal Corners, said she takes her dog to the Pequot Lakes dog park and usually frequents the nearby businesses while there, so a dog park in Crosslake could potentially help area businesses as well.

Creating a communal space where both dogs and people can socialize with one another and helping to make dogs more comfortable around other canines were other positives O'Connell said came up during the meeting, along with creating a space for community members to converse

A petition with 75 community member signatures in favor of the dog park was also presented to the council Monday.

After listening to the opposition, O'Connell said the dog park committee understands the neighbors' concerns and will work to address them while moving forward with the park.

"(We) look forward to continuing to work with the neighboring community to create a park that is in the best design practice for all involved," O'Connell said, adding that the group welcomes involvement from neighbors in the future design of the park.

The next steps, O'Connell said, are to start designing the park and developing a capital campaign to raise funds for the project. The dog park committee will meet in the coming weeks to discuss those steps. The park's cost is undetermined until the designs are finished.

Anyone who wants to be involved in the dog park project is welcomed and can email info@crosslakers.com or mike@lgkwpro.com for more information.

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