The proposed site on Riley Road was originally approved by the Duluth city council ten years ago, when Keene was approved. Rice Lake township denied it, even thought it would be on city property. With that denial it was shelved. This year the 240 acre city property that includes a maintenance building and storage area, some wild unused areas, wetlands, the soccerfield and ball field park complex were annexed as part of a friendly annexation between Duluth and the township. It made sense for this property that had been long owned by the city to now be within the city limits. Rice Lake township also benefits from this transaction.
The city still thought this would be a good location for a dog park and we have been working together with them for a number of months.
The proposed dog park will be about 3 1/2 acres. We will use 5 foot chain link fencing in the entry area and 5 foot woven field fencing in the remainder. The field fencing will be similar to what is across Riley Road at the UMD area and what is already existing on the property. The double gated entry is planned to be the same size and configuration as Observation. The entry base and gate swing area will be concrete, like at Keene. The benches will be the same as Keene, on concrete bases. I have not estimated the cost. It seemed a waste of time to do estimates and calculations not knowing if it would be approved and the actual size. The cost can also vary greatly depending if we have committed volunteers stepping forward to help. If we have volunteers we could consider installing the chain link entry, the field fencing and/or the concrete entry and bench bases. This would of course greatly decrease the funds we have to raise. If we have to hire everything, it will be much more expensive. Everyone wants a big roomy dog park, but that requires much more fencing and there for greater cost.
At this time there will not be water, lights or toilets. None is planned in the future, that will be for future planning and fund raising if users of the park want to work on that. The planned nature of the dog park will be less park like with short mowed grass and more farm field like. Hopefully the farmer that currently mows and bales the field will continue, decreasing maintenance issues. The smaller dog area will of course need to be mowed. There will be a walking/jogging path that goes around the inside perimeter of the park. This could be delineated by a shorter mow height or by gravel. I hope to get the design changed so that the benches are up against the fence, not away from them. That will allow for better supervision of the dogs, a longer path and easier mowing with larger mowing equipment. It is hoped that many people will use the path to walk around, get some exercise of their own and reduce the congestion and wear and tear by the entry area. Reduced dog congestion by the entry will also have them all getting along better. We have been to several dog parks that have paths around the edge, it really is second nature to just take a walk on them.
This location has no residences on three sides. The fourth side is a snowmobile trail/Superior hiking trail. There is also a thick, densely planted tree, brush area separating it from residenceson the west side. Based on the population areas of Duluth, most people will be coming from Jean Duluth Road and this traffic will not bring any extra traffic past the houses on Riley Road. A volunteer went door knocking to the houses closest to the proposed dog park. She talked to about ten of the neighbors and all were either neutral or supportive of it.
Some people have said that people in east Duluth and the surrounding areas have big yards and don't need a dog park. But there are many renters in the University areas and other rental homes. And even if you have a big yard it may not be fenced. It still does not provide the same social pleasure we humans get from the dog park and it lacks the social and exercise for the dogs. There are a huge number of people that walk their dogs in parks and on trials in the east part of town, and some do it with their dogs illegally off leash. Hopefully with a large eastern dog park, more people will use the dog park and there will be less conflict with other park and trail users. People in the nearby rural areas who walk their dogs have difficulty doing this in the winter on roads with no sidewalks, the dog park will be a benefit to them as well.
The next step is the parks commission needs to approve the plan. The meeting is this Wednesday and the agenda and location is available here. The actual plan and comment section is here. There will be opposition to this dog park. It is vital that you take a few minutes and comment today or tomorrow. That will give the staff time to compile the comments before the parks commission meeting. You are welcome to attend and speak on the issue. If the commission approves it, then it will need to be approved by the city council, tentatively August 31. We will need to send emails in support for that effort also. If/when it is fully approved then we will need to get organized, have some meetings, divide up tasks to get the parks funds raised and built. At some point we will have to come up with a name. The current dog parks just took their name from the city parks they are located in. We have been referring to this one as the Riley Road dog park, but we will need to put active thought into what it should be called.
If you have any questions you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to help and be more involved you can join the East Duluth Dog Park facebook group. This is only a work group to plan and work on an eastern dog park, not for memes and dog pictures. You are welcome to join, the more people we have working on this effort, the easier it will be and the sooner we can finally have a dog park in Eastern Duluth. It will take significant volunteer effor to see this through, to raise funds, supervise the build, etc, etc. If you want an eastern dog park, please consider helping in whatever way you can. Please also let your friends in east Duluth know about this. Many dog owners don't currently use the dog parks or our facebook group due to the distance. We need to engage more central and east Duluth residents for this to be successful.