Coon Rapids considering a new site, but the popular off-leash area will stay open for now.
Within the fences of the Trackside Dog Park in Coon Rapids, dogs frolic, unconfined by leashes and the propriety of city streets. It might be canine heaven inside, but outside, it's a dog's life, neighbors say.
Mike Carter said living near the city's only dog park is like "living across the street from a 24-7 party": he cites car noise, traffic and parking problems, shouting, and loose dogs barking and relieving themselves on his property.
He says he's been charged by a bulldog, and his wife has been surprised by a German Shepherd in the garage. He said some neighborhood children recently were threatened by a park user who claimed their boisterous game in an adjacent playground was upsetting his dog.
Regulars see the dog park on Hummingbird Street as a community, and a necessary amenity in a developed city. They largely dispute charges of noise and human misbehavior.
Both City Council meetings in August were marked by Carter and a neighbor, Tom Narog, exchanging arguments with dog park supporters.
The men want to see the park close. They might get what they want, sort of.
The city is in talks with Anoka County and the cities of Andover and Ham Lake to build a regional dog park with off-street parking and running water at Bunker Hills Regional Park, also in Coon Rapids, about 3 miles north of the current site. Coon Rapids officials said they thought the city could sustain two dog parks, but Trackside isn't likely to remain as one of them.
Other sites are a possibility for development.
But the dog park at Trackside isn't likely to close until a new option is ready to go.
Carter is skeptical.
"If you really look at how things are working, it's 'maybe if' and 'if everything works here' and 'if this possibly happens,' and 'if that comes together,'" he said.
"There's no solid commitment from the city."
Opened in 2006
Trackside, the city's only dog park, opened as an experiment in 2006. The site seemed obvious, said City Council Member Scott Schulte, adding that it was fallow ground, unbuildable, already fenced in. Carter began registering complaints within the first six months, when use of the park was low, said City Manager Steve Gatlin.
The first few years were uneventful, even though Carter immediately installed a 4-foot-by-8-foot sign in his yard that read, "Dog park not wanted." He has since removed the sign.
Carter said that the busiest times might bring as many as 100 dogs -- and that their owners' cars line city streets a quarter mile from the entrance.
Narog, Carter's neighbor, said he initially supported the dog park, but the persistent traffic, the noise of door-slamming and chirping auto locks and the sometimes uncivil behavior of dog owners has changed his mind. Cars start showing up at dawn, he said, and keep coming and going until well after dark. Neighbors, he said, have to put up with more disruption than do people in other areas, where nuisance laws are strictly enforced.
Schulte said Friday that he understands the men's concerns and that he'd talked with many residents in the neighborhood. Narog and Carter were the only dog park opponents, he said, a point that Carter disputes, saying he's talked with residents from blocks away who complain about cars speeding down their streets, bound for the dog park.
They own dogs
Both Narog and Carter have dogs. Narog uses the dog park, and talks with other users.
"People said they'd never want this in front of their driveway or across from their front window," he said. "I can respect their side of the deal. But they can go home."
A few regulars were running their dogs one morning last week; all were Coon Rapids residents. They said that the park generally is quiet, and that the users -- both human and canine -- are friendly, responsible and considerate.
Chris Wall, with his black lab, Midnight, said the Bunker location actually is closer to his home.
"But I don't think they need to close this first," he said, adding that he hopes the quality of the new park won't go down. "I don't think they should make it anything less than it is now."
Jennifer Webb, with her chow mix, Hannah, has frequented the dog park regularly since it opened. She know about Carter's longtime opposition.
"We've not really seen there's much in the way of trouble," she said. "It would be very sad if it were to be closed, basically because of a few people."
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409
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