Momentum building for off-leash dog park

MARYSVILLE — After neighbors complained about possible noise and other problems, city officials set aside a proposal for an off-leash dog park on a small strip of land next to Sunnyside Elementary School.

According to proponents and city officials, an alternative proposal to place a temporary off-leash area in a portion of Strawberry Fields will be in front of City Council on July 14.

While Council approval is not guaranteed, the new plan does seem to be building momentum in its favor.

“I don’t anticipate any real objections,” said City Councilwoman Carmen Rasmussen.

“They (Council members) are fine with the information we’ve given them so far,” said city Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew.

Essentially, the off-leash park would be a fenced off area in roughly the south east corner of Strawberry Fields. Both Ballew and Rasmussen emphasized that portion of the park currently is not being used. The off-leash area will not reduce or cut into any existing sports fields, officials said.

“It definitely will be installed with the idea that is temporary,” Rasmussen added, a fact that she believes could be a big selling point in terms of the plan gaining Council approval.

By at least initially approaching the dog park as temporary, Rasmussen said, Council members and other city officials will have an opportunity to judge how much the area is used and how well the area is kept functioning before committing to a permanent facility,

Ballew added that the temporary nature of the off-leash area would allow the city to relocate it if officials ever decide to expand the existing athletic fields.

While Ballew said the city will spend about $20,000 to purchase and install fencing, upkeep largely will be left to the Marysville Dog Owners Group, or M-Dog.

M-Dog has been the primary proponent of creating an off-leash park in the city. A certified non-profit organization, M-Dog is the behind the city’s annual Poochapalooza event. The group’s Leslie Buell said she feels the Strawberry Fields location for an off-leash area could prove ideal.

More so than the Sunnyside location, Buell said Strawberry Fields is readily accessible to residents in northern Marysville. She also said she routinely sees residents walking dogs in the park already.

“I am definitely happy with that location,” said M-Dog volunteer Julie Polkinghhorn, who added she feels it is a spot that will be well utilized by dog owners.

According to Buell, with funds raised via Poochapalooza, M-Dog will maintain the site, cleaning it as necessary and providing signage and such items as collection bags for dog waste.

Buell said M-Dog has between 40 and 50 volunteers signed up and ready to help keep the park in order. Additionally, she said Homestead Bank has agreed to donate a water fountain for the park, a fountain that will have an opening on the bottom for use by dogs.

If Council gives final approval to the plan, Ballew said the city will install fencing for the off-leash area in August, with a possible opening in September. The work will coincide with a $100,000 city project aimed at improving drainage from Strawberry Fields. Ballew added the drainage work should dramatically improve the usability of the park’s athletic fields.

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