This is an update to a story that originally appeared in the June print issue of the magazine. The original appears below.
Who wants a dog park? Not these Melshire Estates neighbors.
The May 21 community meeting at Walnut Hill Recreation Center was standing-room-only, with homeowners invited to provide feedback to a panel of council members, park representatives and library directors.
The topic: Should a temporary dog park supported by private funding be built on unused neighborhood land purchased through the 2006 bond program for a future library? City bond elections have not funded the building of the library, and the site at Preston and Nuestra remains a vacant lot.
The panel included District 13 Council Member Jennifer Gates; District 11 Council Member Lee Kleinman; Jo Giudice, Library Department Director; Willis Winters, Park and Recreation Department Director; Robert Kent, North Texas Area Director for Trust for Public Land; Calvert Collins-Bratton, Dallas Park and Recreation Board member for District 13; Jeff Kitner, Dallas Park and Recreation Board Member for District 11; and Meredith Powell, Friends of the Northaven Trail board member and the person who spearheaded the dog park project.
As panel members made their presentations, neighbors frequently interrupted with boos, backtalk and questions.
The bottom line: Many neighbors in the meeting don’t want a dog park in this space. Gates, who moderated the panel, said after 55 minutes of discussion the City needs to address what to do with the land.
Options discussed at the meeting include:
• Selling the land and using the money to upgrade the Preston Royal Library, built in 1964.
• Retaining the property, creating a library close to the Dallas North Tollway and using the remaining land for a dog park.
• Creating a park.
• Finding another property for the library.
• Finding another property for a dog park.
“This was a private opportunity that had come forward,” Gates said at the end of the meeting. “It’s not going to move forward if it’s in my district, and I oppose it. I wanted to hear back from the community before I move forward.”
At the end of the meeting, Powell said the pop-up dog park scheduled at the site June 2 has been canceled. She said there is support for a dog park in the area, and she will continue researching options and other locations.
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?
Stella got her groove back during puppy yoga on the Northaven Trail.
The 13-pound Catahoula hound was running across the field when she captured the attention of yoga teacher Meredith Powell, vice president of events for the Friends of Northaven Trail. Powell, who lives near Hillcrest and Royal, always wanted a Catahoula hound. The Operation Kindness adoption was a match. Now 62 pounds, Stella likes to snuggle, play with her toys and run. But the nearest dog parks are on Keller Springs or near White Rock Lake. Sometimes, Powell takes Stella to Hillcrest High School to play.
“Once you have a dog, you wonder, ‘Why don’t we have a dog park in the area?’ ” Powell says. She started asking questions and found the vacant lot at Preston and Nuestra. The lot has asphalt parking and a field of overgrown grass and weeds. A “City of Dallas Property: No Trespassing” sign is nailed to a tree. The lot was purchased as the future site of a library, but the funding for the library has yet to come through.
Powell says she is working with the City of Dallas, the Dallas Parks Foundation, the Trust for Public Land and the Better Block Foundation to transform the land into a green-space for dogs and families. They are asking for $300,000 in private donations to fund the park. This would pay for fencing, landscaping, water stations, irrigation, benches, waste disposal stations, parking and more.
What she envisions with glee — dogs slobbering, digging, rolling, sniffing, and owners getting to know one another — is exactly what some neighbors fear: noise, dog poop, home devaluation.
One objector, Neil Fisher of Melshire Estates, lives on Brookstown Drive with two fences separating him and his family from the park.
“I’m not dog averse,” he says. “My wife and I both like dogs. We have a 7-year-old daughter and a 50-pound boxer that is looking at me while we are talking. It’s absolutely nothing against dogs. We lived in Uptown prior to living here. We are quite familiar with what it’s like to live on top of a dog park.”
Fisher says it’s one of the reasons he wanted to move to his new home. “It’s not a park,” he says. “It’s a social gathering place. My experience is that it’s 6 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday, and there’s people out there yelling at their dogs and at each other. Dogs were barking at 9:30 on a Tuesday night when I’m trying to put my daughter to bed. It’s very different from a park.”
Powell calls it a case of “NIMBY” — “not in my back yard.”
A community meeting was scheduled at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center, May 21, at 6:30 p.m., after this magazine went to press.
City Council woman Jennifer Staubach Gates says the land was purchased through the 2006 bond program for the future of the library. The construction costs for the library haven’t been funded. She says the dog park proposal is community-driven, as a temporary use.
“I have heard much concern from Melshire neighbors regarding the dog park use and that’s why we’ve scheduled the community meeting. You have my assurance this won’t happen without a chance for them to provide feedback.”
In the meantime, supporters scheduled a “pop-up” dog park June 2 at the location to get feedback. Powell says the city has an initial design that’s subject to change. She understands they must raise private funds to make the dog park happen. She envisions naming rights and sponsorships. The current goal is to raise $5,000 by June 2. At press time, she had raised $1,500.
“I was talking to this gentleman who brings his dog to the same place I bring my dog, on Airline over at Hillcrest High School, and I told him about the dog park, and he was so supportive that he walked to his car, got two $100 bills and brought them back to me to put in the dog park fund.”
Powell describes a big dog park and a small dog park. She’s willing to sell naming rights. Otherwise, her pick for the park’s name is “Stella’s Place.”
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