The south Minneapolis areas all have staunch opponents, but the parks operation center by Lyndale Farmstead looks most promising.
After weathering a firestorm that led it to abandon a proposed off-leash dog park site in Martin Luther King Park, the city Park Board sought to find a new location in south Minneapolis that would be less controversial.
Good luck with that.
A citizens advisory committee has proposed three finalists, and each has fierce critics.
One site, on Minnehaha Creek, has neighbors up in arms. A second, behind the home of the late park Superintendent Theodore Wirth, in Lyndale Farmstead Park, has drawn objections from historical preservationists.
The third option, part of a parking lot at the parks operations center at Lyndale Farmstead, has faced little public criticism but is called a bad idea by many workers. Most said they feared discipline if they spoke publicly.
In weeks, the committee will make a recommendation, with the operations center site -- a clear favorite.
"The entire discussion indicates the biggest problem, which is that there is no perfect site," said Vincent Moccio, a committee member who favors the operations center.
"Every site presents some obstacles ... that will have to be overcome, either by design or some change in operations."
Park officials feel the Sixth Park District in south Minneapolis has long needed a dog park.
After a battle over the proposed dog park at King Park, which black residents opposed as demeaning to the slain civil rights leader's memory, the Park Board set out to find an alternative, hopefully with less controversy.
"Once bitten, twice shy," said Brad Bourne, Sixth District Park commissioner.
No welcome mats
One finalist is a slice of land south of Minnehaha Creek at Pleasant Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway West. Neighbors turned out at a committee meeting in July, saying limited parking and bicycle traffic made the site a poor option.
"With all the open spaces [in the city], we thought it was a joke," said Germaine Hall, who lives near the site.
A second option, behind the Wirth residence, at the bottom of a winter sledding hill, is criticized by people who think a fenced-in dog park will interfere with the sledding, but worse, harm the character of the Wirth building and surrounding lawn, which is on the National Historic Register. "It is very painful for me that a dog park would go in that back yard," said Joan Berthiaume, cofounder of the Minneapolis Parks Legacy Society.
The state's historic preservation office has no formal say because the Wirth house gets no federal or state money. Still, Susan Roth, its national register historian, said "consideration should be given not to put [the dog park] within the boundary of the Wirth House property because of its historical significance." Dena Sanford, an architectural historian with the National Park Service in Omaha, said, "I don't think it would be sensitive to the preservation of that landscape of that property because it is a national register property."
That leaves the south side Park Board operations center.
"My personal belief is that the operations center allows us the best opportunity," said Bourne. "It is the only site they are considering that adds park land to the system. In the other two, you are taking away what someone else uses."
Interviews with park workers indicated broad opposition to use of that site, over fears that it would reduce parking for employees, make space more cramped for park machinery, and endanger dogs and their owners who navigate past heavy park trucks. They also worry about dog urine leeching into the street when nearby Kings Highway floods.
"There are serious problems," said Bill Shroyer, an arborist and steward with the Laborers' International Union of North America.
Trying to work it out
However, Jennifer Ringold, a parks staffer, said the parks department is still working on a design process that can adjust for such concerns with separate entrances for parks vehicles and dog park users, moving out truck equipment, changing staff parking, and providing extra drainage. "It would take some work, but it is not insurmountable," she said.
Officials at nearby Lakewood Cemetery, across Kings Highway from both Farmstead Park sites, have come out against the park behind the Wirth house, but in favor of the operations site. "What would you think if you visited the cemetery, were mourning at a grave and you saw a bunch of dogs across the street, would that bother you?" asked Ronald Gjerde Jr., president of Lakewood Cemetery. "Having it in a walled-in area [at the operations center] is a better solution."
Park officials talk of tearing up part of the lower parking lot, using another surface and adding shading structures. "What I like about the operations center is that it is pretty much a blank space and from a design standpoint, you could create something that is interesting and usable," said citizens committee chairman Tom Nordyke.
The committee's next meeting is Aug. 15 at Lynnhurst Park, 1345 W. Minnehaha Pkwy., at 6:30 p.m.
Once the panel makes a recommendation, and it could make more than one, the Park Board will consider it and hold two public hearings.
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382