Inver Grove Heights residents began pining for a place for their canines to romp together seven years ago.

But members of the group that advocated for — and will soon receive — the city’s first dog park said the social benefits matter as much for humans as they do for dogs.

“People want to get out, exercise themselves, their dogs, and they want to interact with each other,” said Mark Freer, a Friends of the Inver Grove Heights Dog Park member. “It crosses a lot of age lines.”

On Feb. 12, the City Council approved starting the formal design process for the 10-acre, $600,000 park. Once plans are complete, the city will solicit bids. Completion is slated for mid-fall, if all is approved.

“I think all the stars and moons aligned here,” said Freer, whose grandson Noah Pierson spoke in front of the City Council, urging them to support a dog park.

Friends of the Inver Grove Heights Dog Park formed three years ago and picked up the dog park idea, which had withered and resurfaced various times over the years.

The group worked with the city’s parks and recreation commission — Freer is a member — and the City Council to make the park a reality.

The future park is located at the corner of Concord Boulevard and E. 65th Street and is part of Heritage Village, a city park under development since 2003. The city is currently in talks to purchase more adjacent land to expand Heritage Village.

The city acquired the once-contaminated railroad maintenance yard and began cleaning it up about a decade ago, said Eric Carlson, Inver Grove Heights parks and recreation director.

When complete, the park will be fenced and have a two-acre area for small or older dogs, along with an eight-acre space for all other animals.

“That’s what we tried to do with this park — meet the needs of everybody, if we could,” Freer said.

Many dog owners in the growing suburb of 35,000 currently use dog parks in nearby cities, Freer said, including those in South St. Paul, Eagan and Burnsville. Dakota Woods, a county park, has one in Rosemount.

Land challenges

Finding the appropriate parcel for the project took time, Freer said. The land needed to be large enough, and open and flat, so everyone could access it, Freer said. But some people favored a site with hills and ponds.

Carlson added that it couldn’t be adjacent to a residential area, since neighbors of other potential sites objected to a dog park’s sounds and smells.

Money was another obstacle. The park’s $600,000 price tag includes paving half a parking lot, plus stormwater treatment, lighting, site grading and fencing, Carlson said. It does not include running water, however.

“We’re trying to provide a bare-bones dog park for people to enjoy,” Carlson said.

Those improvements will serve other parkgoers, too, especially as the site is developed further. City officials envision picnics and music in the park eventually, Carlson said.

Friends of the Inver Grove Heights Dog Park, which just received nonprofit status, will raise money to provide items like benches and garbage cans, he said.

The residents’ initiative and motivation helped convince the City Council and city staff to support the park, Carlson said.

The city will use funds from two state grants — one for $300,000 and another for $1.5 million — to buy additional parkland and make the improvements.

That will cover about $450,000 of the dog park’s cost. The city will fund the rest through its park acquisitions and development fund, Carlson said.

Charlotte Svobodny began rooting for a dog park more than a decade ago, and she’s still involved as a Friends of the Inver Grove Heights Dog Park member.

She had a dog when the idea first emerged, but it’s been six years since her pet died, she said. Now she enjoys dog-sitting for friends when they’re out of town.

“It’s about time,” Svobodny said of the park.