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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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School district, parks department agree to plan future South Hill dog park

Igor, a Cane Corso, takes a break from walking with his owner, David Emerson, on Sept. 2, 2018, at the South Hill Dog Park. The city parks department and Spokane Public Schools are working together to create a new dog park on the South Hill.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Igor, a Cane Corso, takes a break from walking with his owner, David Emerson, on Sept. 2, 2018, at the South Hill Dog Park. The city parks department and Spokane Public Schools are working together to create a new dog park on the South Hill. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

Dog owners yearning for a permanent park on the South Hill have new reason for hope.

Spokane Public Schools and Spokane Parks and Recreation have struck a deal to study, design and build a new dog park somewhere near the former park near 63rd Avenue.

Free-roaming pooches of the unofficial South Hill dog park were effectively evicted last year when Spokane Public Schools began construction on the new Carla Peperzak Middle School, one of several schools built with funds from the $495.3 million bond approved by voters in 2018.

When the bond was originally proposed, the school district assured dog owners that it would provide a suitable alternative once it was ready to begin construction of the new middle school. But that promise proved challenging to keep, and ultimately a temporary dog park about one-third the size of the former park opened just south of Mullan Road Elementary School last October.

Now, the school district and Spokane Parks and Recreation have forged a plan for a replacement park. The plan was discussed at the Spokane City Council’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting on Monday.

Spokane Parks will commence a study to identify a potential location somewhere near the former park for its replacement by the end of 2022. It will also form an advisory committee to help recommend a location and amenities to the Park Board.

Spokane Public Schools will be on the hook for paying for and actually building the park by April 2023, unless the district and city agree on a timeline extension.

Future maintenance and costs of the dog park would be the responsibility of the city.

Spokane Parks is using the South Hill situation as an opportunity to analyze its plans for dog parks across the city.

The study undertaken this year will identify a location for a park not just near the site of the former South Hill park, but potential spots citywide.

The new South Hill dog park would serve as a template for future dog parks, according to Spokane Parks officials.

“It’s going to be like a ‘dog park best practices,’ ” Spokane Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Jones told City Council members on Monday.

Not only has Spokane Parks heard loud and clear from residents that dog parks are a top priority, but it’s aware that many people are using existing parks as de facto dog parks.

“Let’s analyze that and say ‘OK, is this a place where we could take out some land from an existing park and use it as off-leash,’ ” said Councilwoman Lori Kinnear.

Council President Breean Beggs echoed Kinnear’s sentiment.

“People are using schools, playfields and parks as dog parks all the time and if we can fence off a portion of it and have the dogs in the one place and everyone else in the other, it’ll go much better for all,” Beggs said.

Spokane Parks isn’t restricting the analysis for potential dog park locations to existing park land, but is also looking at underused city-owned land.

“We want to make sure that we don’t limit ourselves to just existing parks,” Jones said.

The city formerly owned the South Hill land in question, but handed it over to the school district so it could become the home of the new middle school.

Beggs noted the whole city could benefit from new dog parks.

Council members Michael Cathcart and Jonathan Bingle will press for a dog park in their district, which encompasses northeast Spokane.

“I just want to make sure that what we’re putting in in one place we’re going to try to do our best to the same thing in other parts of the community, as well,” Cathcart said.

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