Dogs may be romping at a Pilot Knob site later this summer if Mendota Heights decides to open a temporary off-leash dog park there while continuing to search for a permanent location.
The dog park would occupy about half of a 7.5-acre parcel that the city of Mendota Heights owns at Pilot Knob Road and Acacia Boulevard. It could remain there for up to five years.
“During that time, the city would look for a more permanent location,” City Administrator Mark McNeill said. “The council does recognize there is a strong desire for it, and so we tried to find this as a temporary solution.”
The city also recognizes potential concerns about using part of Pilot Knob as a dog park, even on an interim basis.
The hill is a significant historical, cultural and spiritual site for the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community. Putting up the fence necessary for the dog park would involve digging post holes, McNeill and Sloan Wallgren, the city’s recreation program coordinator, wrote in a memo to City Council members.
Pilot Knob is known as Oheyawhi, or “a hill much visited,” according to the Pilot Knob Preservation Association. Overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, it has been a gathering place for ceremonies and burials.
It became known as Pilot Knob when riverboat captains began to us use it as a landmark. In an 1851 treaty signing on Pilot Knob, the Dakota ceded most of the area now known as southeastern Minnesota to the U.S. government, according to the preservation association.
Tribal Chairwoman Sharon Lennartson and representatives of the Pilot Knob Preservation Association said the short-term dog park would be acceptable, according to the city memo. Lennartson declined to comment for this story.
Gail Lewellan, co-chair of the preservation association, said the group wouldn’t object to the dog park as a temporary use of the property.
“We did talk with a number of people in the Dakota community,” Lewellan said. “While the first choice, of course, would be to have something that more closely honors the history and sacredness of Pilot Knob, something that helps people understand the special place that it is, this is not a particularly objectionable use.”
Fee increases possible
At a meeting last month, council members discussed ways to pay the estimated $30,000 cost of putting up a chain-link fence around the dog park. The city would absorb most of the cost, but try to recover a portion of it through dog license fees.
One option would double the city’s license fee to $10. That would raise an additional $5,575 over the next five years if all current dog owners renewed their licenses annually during that period, according to the memo to City Council members.
The other option calls for keeping the city’s dog license fee at $5 and selling residents a separate dog park license for $20.
Under both options, the city could require nonresidents to buy a dog park license for $25, although that would require monitoring for compliance that would reduce the city’s return.
The Mendota Heights Planning Commission will consider the dog park proposal July 23, McNeill said, and the City Council could weigh in Aug. 4.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail is email@example.com.