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A dog’s new world

Our View: Public input needed for Kootenai County park

Residents of Seattle, Portland and San Francisco recognized years ago that dogs and humans can peacefully co-exist in urban settings. Designated dogs parks – where canines run leash-free in open spaces – thrive in all three cities.

Inland Northwest municipalities are new to the dog park concept. Spokane County opened its first off-leash park in October 2006. And now Coeur d’Alene is embarking on an ambitious dog park plan. The City Council will vote Tuesday whether to create a master plan for the area’s first dog park.

Coeur d’Alene Parks Director Doug Eastwood says the vision goes beyond a simple dog park. He hopes it evolves into a “dog-friendly campus.”

The dog park would be located on seven acres off Ramsey Road. Adjacent to the park would be Kootenai Humane Society’s proposed new shelter. This project will require collaboration among the city, county and the nonprofit Humane Society, and it won’t be cheap. The city’s ultimate cost can’t be estimated until the master plan is finished, but the city will need to spend about $405,000 to get it going. And the Humane Society estimates its shelter construction costs between $3 million and $5 million.

The effort – and the price tag – are worth it. The innovative plan is one more indication that Coeur d’Alene is stepping into the big time, city-wise. The area has grown in recent years because newcomers moved there from bigger places, such as Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.

“The outsiders come from areas that have modern Humane Society facilities – and dog parks. It raises the level of expectations,” said Phil Morgan, executive director of the Kootenai Humane Society.

The Parks Department recently updated its parks plan, using information gathered in an extensive survey.

“Almost half of the households in Coeur d’Alene own a dog, and some have more than one dog,” Eastwood said. “Even a greater majority felt it was important to have an off-leash site. This is a high priority.”

The Inland Northwest dog culture has traditionally been a bit freewheeling. Leashless dogs sniffed and raced through neighborhoods and parks. Some pet owners still consider dog droppings on parkland – and private lawns – a natural part of neighborhood business. As dog-control laws are more strictly enforced and dog parks become more common, some will lament the end of these looser dog days.

Forward-thinking citizens, however, will embrace the dog park idea. Several public meetings are planned in Coeur d’Alene on this topic. Join in to brainstorm the best way to create Coeur d’Alene’s first urban campus that is friendly to the city’s human and canine residents.

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