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Pets at heart of two-part plan

Sat., March 22, 2008, midnight

A big chunk of vacant land in the middle of Coeur d’Alene is going to the dogs – for North Idaho’s first dog park and a new animal shelter large enough to handle the escalating population of people and pets.

Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai County and Kootenai Humane Society officials unveiled a proposal Friday that would transform about seven acres of the old garbage landfill off Ramsey Road, across from the Kroc Community Center, into a dog park.

An adjacent chunk of land is where the Kootenai Humane Society wants to build a $3 million to $5 million animal shelter. That’s where Coeur d’Alene animal control officials would bring stray animals.

Currently, Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County contract with the Post Falls Animal Shelter to take lost animals or strays. The city began contracting with Post Falls in February 2007 after the Coeur d’Alene Animal Shelter closed. Post Falls officials have said they won’t take dogs from Coeur d’Alene after May and have increased the impound and daily boarding fees.

City Administrator Wendy Gabriel said the city would contract with the Kootenai Humane Society once the new shelter is built, but the county would continue to contract with Post Falls in addition to using the new animal shelter.

The county owns the landfill property, which isn’t buildable.

Coeur d’Alene Parks Director Doug Eastwood said there’s high demand for a place where dog owners can let their animals run off-leash in a fenced area with other dogs. Currently, dogs are allowed on Tubbs Hill and the Centennial Trail, but only on leash.

Spokane County opened its first off-leash dog park in fall 2006, on 3 ½ acres just north of Interstate 90, at the Idaho state line.

Eastwood said Idaho organizers want at least seven acres because dogs are hard on grass. Half of the park will always be closed so the grass can recover, he said.

Eastwood said there’s also a possibility for a dog-training area for obedience classes and other programs. The parks department likely would use about $400,000 of its capital improvement fund to build the dog park. The city would pay for infrastructure, such as extending Neider Avenue to access the park and animal shelter, which could total about $5,000.

The city owns the vacant lot at the end of Julia Street that the Humane Society would lease for the shelter. Executive Director Phil Morgan said the nonprofit plans to borrow money to build what he called a “state-of-the-art facility” that could be expanded. Then the Humane Society would raise money to repay the debt.

“The need is now, not in five to seven years,” Morgan said. “We want this to be a star, a shining jewel in the city,” comparing the facility to the new library and the Kroc Center.

The group will present the plan Monday to the city’s General Services Committee, asking for permission to create a master plan detailing what the park and shelter would look like and hammer out the costs. The City Council will consider the idea April 1.

The Kootenai County Commission also must approve the landfill lease.

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