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Dog park options explored

City Council is exploring whether to create a local dog park despite a difference of opinion on how to accommodate pets in the area.

At its Tuesday, March 22, meeting in a 4-1 vote, council directed staff to research the cost and scope of creating an area for dogs in the backfield of the Little League fields at Veterans’ Memorial Park.

“After the meeting (Feb. 8) that we had discussing enforcement of the leash law, (I) had the opportunity to meet … with a number of people in the community (on) both sides of the fence …,” said Councilwoman Sherri Jorgensen, who requested the council’s discussion. “I do believe there is a safety concern and that it could be addressed in a different way, and I do think that we do need to enforce what we have.”

Currently, animals must be on a leash unless they are under the verbal command of an owner or trainer who is giving auditory or visual directions. The animal must be obeying them and not violating any other parts of the city’s code.

Parks and Recreation Director Roger Hall said Scott Hinson, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, came up with the idea for the Little League fields.

“The Little League puts out a temporary fence at 200 feet (every year),” said Hall. “That leaves 100 feet in back of that fence that can be set up for a small dog area, medium dog area and large dog area. … It’s irrigated. It’s (the grass) cut by the Public Works Department and basically, if you look at the cost, it would be a lot cheaper to do it this way if you guys see fit to do that.”

No new grass

Hall said Public Works estimated the cost to be $75,000 to make those changes, and $250,000 to create a new dog park. Additionally, due to the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s restrictions on installing new grass, the city would have to look at installing artificial turf at a new facility.

Public Works also has a part-time employee whose job is to clean up dog poop in the city.

“This, in my opinion, would be probably the best with the least impact to our baseball and softball and tournament programs that we do have in Boulder City,” Hall said.

Councilman James Howard Adams said he agreed with not adding any new grass, and he liked what had been presented for Veterans’ Memorial Park.

“I think that is a reasonable area, especially because its use would be accommodating,” he said.

Mayor Kiernan McManus disagreed and said he did not think this would help the safety issues because they happen throughout the city.

“The ambiguous language that we have in our current ordinance, we know it’s not working,” he said. “We know that people are still getting injured. … So I don’t know how addressing a problem with a dog park … is necessarily going to prevent all the other situations that happen in the city because they do happen everywhere.”

Ordinance ‘unenforceable’

At the Feb. 8 meeting, Animal Control Supervisor Ann Inabnitt said “under verbal command” makes the ordinance almost unenforceable because she can’t enforce it unless something bad happens.

She said her department receives 500 calls a year for dogs running at-large and has had more than a dozen dog-on-dog attacks in the past 18 months. There have also been a dozen instances in the past two years where people have been attacked and injured.

Jorgensen’s motion also directed staff to research another possible location for a new dog park and having certain times in the morning and afternoon where dogs could run around at-large in Wilbur Square Park and Veterans’ Memorial Park.

McManus said he did not agree with that either and gave the only dissenting vote against the motion.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, McManus presented a resolution to establish designated fenced-in areas where animals could run at-large. He suggested designating one of the Hemenway Valley Park fields and an area adjacent to the skate park in Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Bighorns’ presence

According to city code, dogs are not allowed at Hemenway Valley Park because of the bighorn sheep there. He said he didn’t think that would be an issue because the fields are hundreds of yards away from the park, and he didn’t consider them part of it.

Adams asked City Attorney Brittany Walker whether the fields were considered part of the park.

Walker said she would have to research it.

Adams said he wasn’t comfortable moving forward with the resolution until that was answered, but he was OK with the skate park as well as researching other areas.

“I am absolutely opposed with any dogs having anything to do with Hemenway Park. … You have protected animals in a protected area,” said Councilwoman Claudia Bridges.

“I’d be opposed to Hemenway Park because of bighorn sheep and with all the softball tournaments that go on down there, especially on Sundays,” added Councilman Matt Fox. “I’d be interested in looking at the skate park.”

McManus made a motion to pass the resolution and leave out the Hemenway Valley Park option, but it failed for lack of a second.

“We’ve accomplished nothing regarding the dangers that we have from dogs in this city from what we’ve done this evening,” he said.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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