Thursday, March 18, 2010
Bid for JVP Dog Run Hits Dead End
By Conor Greene
The push for a dog run in Juniper Valley Park has hit a road block after three proposed locations there were rejected by a Community Board 5 subcommittee. With no viable locations having been identified within the Middle Village area, the board has suggested the new Elmhurst Park as a possibility.
At last week’s CB 5 meeting, Dog Run Subcommittee Chairwoman Kathy Masi reported that the three proposed locations in Juniper Valley Park – near the area along 80th Street and Dry Harbor Road dedicated for passive recreation, between the soccer field and track in the western portion of the park, and behind the roller hockey bleachers – had been rejected earlier this month.
“Basically, we had opposition from all over the place, including residents, community groups and civic associations,” said Masi of local reaction during a December visit to the sites, an event she called “one of the worst experiences” she has had during her years of community involvement. “It was just not a nice situation – I was embarrassed by the behavior of all sides,” she added.
The community board eventually voted to send a letter to Community Board 4 about the possibility of setting aside space in Elmhurst Park, which is under construction at the former gas tanks site on Grand Avenue near 74th Street. Part of the thinking behind that idea is since the land is still “in the process of being dug up,” it would be easier to construct on there, said Masi.
On Tuesday, CB 4 District Manager Richard Italiano said he hasn’t received the request yet and would have to run it by his full board before commenting. A spokeswoman for the City Parks Department said the agency is open to considering proposals for dog runs provided a committed group agrees to maintain the area and a funding source is identified to fund creation and upkeep of the facility. “Once these precursors are in place, Parks can consider the feasibility” of a specific site such as Elmhurst Park.
Still, the idea of using space within the six-acre Elmhurst Park didn’t set well with some board members including Manny Caruana. “I can’t believe we would choose to put dogs where we put people. There isn’t room for both there,” he said. An informal straw poll of the board showed that about two dozen members, or roughly half the group, were in favor in general of having a dog run in CB 5.
In an interview Tuesday, Masi stressed that the letter to CB 4 is merely a suggestion. “From what I got, it didn’t look like they had open arms, and that’s okay,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to impose something on someone, so if they don’t want it, fine.”
There are other issues to hammer out on top of finding a suitable location, including a plan for funding both construction and ongoing maintenance of the dog run, according to Masi. “Looking for a dog run [location] was a little premature,” she said. “Part of this is my fault; I assumed they knew what they were doing.” She has since provided the group with information on forming a nonprofit organization, but in her view “nobody’s done anything else expect come to meetings and say they want a dog run.”
Masi also said that the group advocating for the dog run has shrunk considerably after members found out that installing a dog run would mean the end of off-leash hour privileges in Juniper Valley Park. Currently, dog owners can allow their pets to run free in the park during certain early-morning and late-night hours.
For a location to be deemed appropriate, it would likely have to be in an out-of-the-way area not near homes. Masi said that while some advocate have pointed to the run in Forest Park as a possible model, she found that area to be “disgusting” during several visits there. “I would never advocate to have that situation in Juniper Valley Park,” she said. “Of every run I’ve looked at, the really nice ones have private funding.”
At this point, it appears the push for a dog run has hit a dead end, unless the dog run group can come up with a funding plan and an appropriate location is agreed upon. “I’m willing to see this to the end, but I’m not sure where the end will lead,” said Masi. “We’ll wait to hear from CB 4, and then decide what the next step will be. Hopefully by the next meeting we will have something to discuss and the dog run people will have their ducks in order.