A much-anticipated dog park under St. Paul's High Bridge got a boost Tuesday with the announcement of an agreement between the city and the landowner, Xcel Energy.

Mike Hahm, the city's parks and recreation director, said the park will open on Memorial Day 2012.

"People have been clamoring for more dog parks," said City Council Member Dave Thune, who brought his "granddog," a black Labrador named Neo, to the announcement. "This is a great walking corridor on leashes. Imagine being able to bop in here," he said of the off-leash park that is just off pedestrian and biking paths that hug the riverfront.

Xcel will continue to own the 7-acre plot, which once was part of the energy giant's coal plant. Early last year, Xcel planted a mix of grasses specifically tough enough to withstand trampling by paws. Initially, the hope was to open the park by summer, but the grass didn't take quickly enough.

The park won't be lighted for now, but will have a gate and parking literally under the High Bridge, which connects Irvine Park to the West Side bluffs. The park will be accessible by taking Randolph Avenue past Shepard Road down to the Mississippi River.

Hahm said a new dog park long has been a vexing goal because residents didn't want to repurpose existing parks for dogs. The city expects the cost for now to be a few thousand dollars for adding a fence and a double-gated entry for pet safety.

About one-third of St. Paul's 278,000 residents own dogs, but the city lacks the canine park system of Minneapolis. Arlington/Arkwright on the East Side is the city's only legal off-leash park.

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson