Off-leash dog park may open in September

MARYSVILLE With little debate, City Council on July 14 unanimously approved creating a temporary off-leash dog park at Strawberry Fields, according to city Parks and Recreation Director Jim Ballew.

While construction is now set to begin in August with a possible opening in September, Ballew emphasized the temporary nature of the park.

Ballew recommended to Council that the city set up the off-leash area and monitor it for a year.

In the past, Council members indicated they want to know how much the area is utilized and keep track of its upkeep. Maintenance of the area largely will fall to the non-profit Marysville Dog Owners Group, or M-Dog.

M-Dog has been promoting creation of an off-leash park. The group's Leslie Buell said M-Dog will use funds raised during the recent Poochapalooza event to keep the park in order. According to Buell, M-Dog will clean the site as necessary and provide signage and such items as collection bags for dog waste.

Buell added that M-Dog has between 40 and 50 volunteers signed up and ready to help maintain the park.

Ballew said the off-leash area essentially will be three fenced-in acres on the southeast corner of Strawberry Fields. He has emphasized that the area is not currently being used and the off-leash area will not encroach on any existing playing fields.

In the past, Ballew has said the city will spend about $20,000 to purchase and install fencing and a few other amenities. After the Council vote, he added that M-Dog will help with the installation. Ballew also stated the city will have the ability to move the fencing if needed. That need seems most likely to arise if Marysville ever finds the funding to add to the existing Strawberry Fields athletic facilities.

Ballew said the city has preliminary designs for three to four new soccer fields as well as some additional parking. But he said implementation of that plan is probably a few years in the future.

"It would be an expensive proposition," Ballew said.

Besides funding issues, Ballew said the presence of wetlands around Strawberry Fields could mean even gaining permits for any new fields might take several years.

According to Ballew, the city is timing construction of the off-leash area with a $100,000 project aimed at improving drainage at Strawberry Fields. In the past, he has said the project should dramatically improve the usability of the park's athletic fields.

The Strawberry Fields location represents at least the second off-leash proposal put together by the city and M-Dog. After neighbors complained about possible noise and other problems, city officials set aside a scheme for an off-leash dog park on a small strip of land next to Sunnyside Elementary School. But Buell and other M-Dog members have expressed satisfaction with the Strawberry Fields location.

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.

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