News

Off-leash dog area at French Lake will stay put

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

It’s been one year since French Lake Park was designated an off-leash area for dogs and their owners.

With the trial period over and several park supporters wondering what’s next, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Public Safety Committee unanimously approved the park’s continued use as an off-leash area.

More than 30 people, most there for the French Lake Park discussion, packed the Patrick Maher Training Room for the July 10 meeting.

Several dog owners and park users urged the committee to forgo another one- or two-year trial period and designate the park as a permanent off-leash dog park.

Sally Hurst’s comments included a three-minute musical PowerPoint presentation that outlined the progress made on the property since the trial period began in July 2005.

The park, she said, serves a truly diverse group of people and dogs.

“It’s a safe place for us to go,” she said.

Other residents described the social opportunities the park presents for both dogs and owners.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing,” Frank Misner said, describing his time in the park with his golden retriever, Hunter.

Misner said he and Hunter visit the park daily and have gotten to know many people they wouldn’t have met otherwise.

“There’s no other park where I could have done that,” he said, adding in other parks, people tend to steer clear of those with dogs.

The committee also discussed Lakehaven Utility District’s interest in purchasing the city’s share of the park property.

Currently, a portion of the park is owned by the utility district.

“There has been no official action by the city or Lakehaven,” Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Donna Hanson said.

The district, she said, may want to install underground vaults for water storage, which could alter some of the park’s surface.

Lakehaven has expressed support for the park and the volunteers who maintain it. Residents expressed concern about the district possibly changing its mentality toward the park in the long term.

Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell said the issue before the committee was not determining Lakehaven’s intentions or if the city would be interested in selling its stake.

“I think it’s difficult to predict what a company might do,” he said.

Council member Jeanne Burbidge, who chaired the committee, thanked the residents who volunteered their time, money and effort to maintaining the park during its test run.

While she acknowledged several questions remain unanswered, especially regarding long-term resources, Burbidge also supported an official designation.

Before their vote, however, C.T. Purdom, chair of the city’s Parks Commission, recommended the park become the city’s “official” off-leash dog park rather than vie for “permanent” status.

The council committee approved an official designation recommendation for the park. Council member Linda Kochmar recused herself from the vote, citing her employment at Lakehaven.

With the committee’s approval, the full council is expected to discuss the park designation at its July 18 meeting.

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