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Post Falls punts pooch-park plan

by ELLI GOLDMAN HILBERT
Staff Writer | August 11, 2021 1:08 AM

POST FALLS — Negative public response led the Post Falls City Council to seek a different location for the proposed Singing Hills dog park.

“It’s the right plan with the wrong place,” said Councilman Joe Malloy.

Parks & Recreation had identified Singing Hills Park as an ideal location for the plan, because of its trail connectivity, open flat green space, established parking and mature vegetation.

Beginning around 2010, numerous sites have been explored to host the first dog park in Post Falls, including several sites not as close to residential areas.

All proposed locations have not worked out.

The project will cost around $700,000. The Parks & Recreation department received a $100,000 pledge toward it.

Park planners sought about $40,000 from the city and say they plan to seek more donations, as well as funding from city impact fees.

The plan was most recently presented by the Parks & Recreation Department at the City Council meeting Aug. 3, though the project has been in process for many years.

There was a flurry of activity prior to the plan being brought to a vote, including an onsite workshop by the Parks & Recreation Department that was attended by about 20 residents.

One neighborhood resident collected close to 100 signatures from people in opposition to the project.

The petition requested signatures to "STOP the construction of the dog park at Singing Hills Park and leave it as open green space."

However, there was some confusion about the plan among council members and residents of the Harmony Place neighborhood.

Councilman Steve Anthony reached out to local residents before the plan was put to a vote.

Several residents told Anthony they might not have signed the petition if they’d had more detailed information or had seen the blueprint plans. Regardless, most residential feedback was negative.

Commentary received at the Parks & Recreation workshop included: concerns about loss of open space, increased neighborhood traffic, increased noise or odors created by dogs visiting the park, concern about maintenance and animal control issues, visitors from outside the neighborhood using the park, and fencing reducing the view of children playing in the park.

Several homeowners had concerns about reduced property values due to the park and said they didn't buy a home in the neighborhood to be near a dog park.

"Since it opens at sunup, will dogs be allowed to start barking at 4 a.m. and wake us up? And if they do, do we call animal control each time?" asked neighborhood resident Terri Loftus in a letter to the City Council.

On the positive side, a few residents liked the idea of a dog park in the neighborhood, approved of the open space, trails, improved playground equipment and shelters and they were pleased there was a donor involved in the project.

Dave Fair, director of Parks & Recreation, said polls taken in 2012 & 2020, by the Parks Department show a dog park in Post Falls is wanted by residents while other sought-after amenities, such as the addition of splash pads, have already been implemented elsewhere in the city.

Finding the right location has been a hang-up in moving forward.

Fair expressed concern at the council meeting that Parks & Recreation has been exploring sites for the park for the past several years and it "could be another five years, or never happen."

“And this isn’t just a dog park. It includes a lot of upgrades,” Fair said. “So it’s not whether or not we should have a dog park, but rather is this the site for it?”

The plan for the dog park at Singing Hills included an enclosed dog area, a half-acre of open space for recreation like throwing flying discs or tossing balls, an upgrade to parking including ADA parking and access, covered shelter areas and additional bathrooms.

City Council votes seemed to align with the public's feedback on the project.

photo

ELLI GOLDMAN HILBERT/Press

Coeur d'Alene resident Joe Barrett runs his dog Kenzie over an agility obstacle at McEuen Dog Park downtown. Barrett said he regularly visits both McEuen and Cherry Hill dog parks.

“I never heard so much about a dog park until a couple of weeks ago,” said Councilman Alan Wolfe. “I hear from a lot of people about, 'Oh yeah, we want a dog park,' but it’s not in the master plan — that’s concern No. 1.”

“There are two types of parks,” Wolfe said. “One is a neighborhood park, and the other is a destination park. A neighborhood park should be what the neighbors want it to be.”

Council members voted 3-2 to move the project to a different location, but said that if public outreach showed support, using the Singing Hills Park space could be revisited in the future.

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