Thursday, April 23, 2009
Group Makes Plea for JVP Dog Run
By Conor Greene
After months of asking Community Board 5 to support a dog run in Juniper Valley Park, a group of dog lovers formally pitched the idea to the advisory board’s Parks Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Despite the poor weather, a large group of area dog owners - including members of the Juniper Valley Dog Association - attended the meeting at the park’s Brennan Fieldhouse. While the Parks Committee was receptive to investigating the idea, major issues moving forward include where the dog run would be located within the park and how it would be funded.
Joe Pisano, president of the dog association, said his group is seeking a one-year test to see if a dog run would work in Juniper Valley Park. With the creation of the dog run, the current off-leash hours between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. would be eliminated. “We love this park – that’s why we want to be here. If you give us the opportunity, we will make it the best dog park in the city” he said, noting that volunteers are ready to help out. “We will clean it up and fundraise… We’re ready to do whatever we have to do.”
Pisano said his group’s preference is to have a permanent dog run built in the location between the baseball fields that is currently used during off-leash hours. “Everyone seems to feel like the spot we’re in is the best spot,” he said. “We would like to stay there if we could… We think it’s the right size, location and has great drainage.”
However, the Parks Committee and Juniper Park Civic Association are opposed to placing a permanent dog run in that area due to the damage caused to mature trees by dog urine. The Parks Committee instead suggested three alternate possibilities: behind the bleachers at the roller hockey rink, behind the fieldhouse near 71st Street and Juniper Boulevard South or between the end of the track and the nursery house near Lutheran Avenue and Juniper Boulevard North.
According to committee chairman Steve Fiedler, the JPCA “consistently and constantly” has received complaints about noise in the park. “Some locations, unfortunately, are just not set for [certain] things,” he said. “The ground has worn away since you’ve been there.” He added that he didn’t think the location was a good for off-leash hours because the noise has been disruptive to neighbors.
JPCA Vice President Lorraine Sciulli, who lives near the park, said that the dogs are disruptive to the neighborhood. “The park is completely surrounded by houses,” she said. “I don’t know why you think nobody is hearing your dogs barking.”
Pisano responded that the dog run would allow canine owners to use the park at all hours, meaning there would be fewer people at a time. Currently, dogs are only allowed off-leash between when the park opens at 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. “Isn’t it loud when a baseball game is going on?” he asked.
Manny Caruana questioned why a section of the park would be set aside for animals. “You got to remember – the park was not built for animals, it was built for humans,” he said. “I never thought about taking a part of the park for my dog.”
Pisano said there are more than 100 dog runs and parks throughout the city. “It’s not like it’s never been done,” he said.
Fiedler noted that a formal process must be followed for the proposal to become reality. That would include a public hearing after a specific design is complete. “No location will be picked without these procedures,” he said. “This is the first step,” with the discussion expected to continue at future Parks Committee meetings this summer. “If a location can be established, fine. If it can’t, fine too,” he said.
Much of the discussion centered on damaged caused to the trees and grass in the current off-leash area, and a Parks Department employee said that the impact on that section of the park is caused by a combination of factors, including drainage from the ballfields. “The dogs definitely contributed to the loss of grass,” he said.
Paul Toomey, president of the dog group K-9 Korral in Forest Park stressed that it’s important to provide shade for the dogs. “Whatever the plan is, they should have trees there,” he said. Toomey also questioned whether it’s appropriate for Fiedler to run the meeting since he is also a JPCA member. “You obviously have a biased opinion about the dog run,” he said.
Fiedler responded, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have an open mind. I don’t think that’s a conflict at all.”
Dog owner Rich McGraw tried to keep the focus on how to best move forward on this request. He said there is likely one location out of the three or four suggested “that we could all live with… I don’t think any of us want to see the trees die… If we know some of the potential pitfalls, we can start looking at resolutions.”
Robert Holden, president of the JPCA, said his group would support a dog run in Juniper Valley Park provided it is done properly. Otherwise, “it will quickly become an unhealthy dust bowl,” he said, adding that “the JPCA won’t support just a fence.” He suggested that the group ask Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) for capital funding to help defray the costs. “We just want to see it done properly,” he said. We will work with you.”
In a statement, Crowley said she supports the idea of having a dog run in Juniper Valley Park. “I believe a dog run would be a healthy addition to the community. I look forward to working with community members on a proposal that best suits the interests of our neighborhood.”