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St. Paul might be on its way to becoming more than a one dog-park town.
The Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a process for creating two new off-leash dog parks, in the West Side and West Seventh neighborhoods.
For any new off-leash areas to become reality, though, there will need to be a public review process, room in the budget and City Council approval.
Currently the only off-leash dog park is Arlington/Arkwright, on the East Side.
Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties all have dog parks. The cities of Bloomington, Burnsville, Eden Prairie, Edina, Minneapolis, Plymouth and Roseville, among others, also offer them. Nearly one-third of metro residents own dogs.
Advocates have pushed for more pooch play areas in St. Paul for years, but the latest effort sprouted from a series of community meetings Mayor Chris Coleman held last spring. The vast majority of questions concerned why there aren't more dog parks.
So the mayor formed a group to study the issue. The Off-Leash Dog Area Task Force met six times and visited two sites between January and June.
The group made five recommendations:
• Create a subcommittee on the commission to advise the city on the development of an off-leash dog area system.
• Create two types of parks: destination and neighborhood, with clear criteria.
• Create a user permit fee for destination parks. A license would be required to get the permit.
• Consider Bluff Park, near Concord and Hwy. 52, and Island Station, near Randolph Av. and Shepard Road, as potential sites.
• Make some management changes at Arlington/Arkwright, such as hours of operation, resolve parking problems and make a separate small-dog section.
"We will be watching the public process closely, but it looks increasingly likely that there will be more off-leash areas in the near future," said mayoral spokesman Bob Hume.
Jan Carr, a dog-park advocate, said after the commission vote that the issue is less about dogs and more about supporting an amenity that builds community for owners as well as animals.
Chris Havens • 651-298-1542