Dog park gets public hearing

Plans phase in features at six-acre site

Tuesday evening, the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department held the first of two public hearings about a proposed off-leash dog park to be built in the High Bridge Park area.

The dog park would be located on land between Riverside Avenue, A Street and Government Way. SpokAnimal, the Spokane Parks Foundation and the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department are working together on the proposed park, but nothing is set in stone yet.

“We have been talking about this for four or five years,” said Taylor Bressler, park planning and projects manager with the parks department, at the beginning of the hearing. “This is a classic ‘not in my back yard’ project, but we believe this is a good location.”

The area is also known as the A Street garden location because it once was the site of a community garden. Prior to being purchased by the city in the ’60s, Bressler said, there was a trailer park there.

There are no dog parks in Spokane. The nearest one is the dog park just east of the state border, which is operated by SCRAPS – the Spokane County’s animal control agency.

A master plan for the High Bridge Dog Park has been developed by local landscape architects Gavin Associates. It’s designed to be implemented in stages beginning with, very simply, a fenced area and rudimentary services such as a portable toilet for humans and cleanup stations for dog waste.

If completed, the final park would also have a picnic shelter, an area where dog shows and training could be held – complete with amphitheater seating – and a water feature for the dogs.

Initially, just putting up the fence would cost between $60,000 and $80,000, Bressler said.

“And we don’t have cent one on this,” he added.

The Spokane Parks Foundation donated $12,500 to study and plan the dog park about a year ago, said Toni Nersesian, the foundation’s executive director.

“We look at this as an initiative,” said Nersesian, explaining that the foundation had a lot of prep work to do before it could get behind the fundraising.

“We can put swimsuits on kids, but we can’t do projects,” Nersesian explained. The foundation immediately partnered with SpokAnimal, which took on the main part of the fundraising.

“They don’t want a 10-year campaign, they want something to happen soon,” Nersesian said. “We believe in it. Even in times like this, people have deep pockets for their pets.”

The area is part of the master plan for the Spokane River Gorge which was developed in 2002, with a lot of public input, by the Friends of the Falls Association.

“I want to make it very clear that Friends of the Falls support the concept of a dog park,” said Steve Faust, speaking on behalf of the association. “And we think this is a very appropriate site for the park.”

This dog park would be located in an area close to where the proposed whitewater rafting park would be, where the Fish Lake Trail will intersect with the Centennial Trail, right by the Sandifur Memorial Bridge and it’s near a popular disc golf site.

“A lot of people will be coming to this area, and it will be a great thing for our city,” Faust said. “But it may be that the dog park should be a little smaller.”

The proposed dog park would cover six acres and Faust said Friends of the Falls are concerned a park of that size wouldn’t allow enough space for parking – both for the dog park and for when other activities are developed in that area.

There weren’t that many dog owners at Tuesday’s hearing and only one had signed up to speak. Kelly Russo said she lives in an apartment and the park would be a wonderful place for her and her two dogs, Raina and Basie. She uses paratransit to get around and the service does not go out to the county-run dog park, she said.

“This park is accessible – people really want this. I hope it works out,” Russo said.

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