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Sunnyside neighbors opposed to off-leash plan for Kiwanis Nature Park

Jesse Thompson, left, and Mike Haugen, right, look over plans to convert the Kiwanis Nature Park into an off-leash park for dogs during a Nov. 29 meeting at Sunnyside Elementary School. Thompson is president of a nearby homeowners group, 77 families opposed to the proposed park. If we dont want it, whats the purpose of putting it in there? Thompson asked Marysville Parks director Jim Ballew. -
Jesse Thompson, left, and Mike Haugen, right, look over plans to convert the Kiwanis Nature Park into an off-leash park for dogs during a Nov. 29 meeting at Sunnyside Elementary School. Thompson is president of a nearby homeowners group, 77 families opposed to the proposed park. If we dont want it, whats the purpose of putting it in there? Thompson asked Marysville Parks director Jim Ballew.
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MARYSVILLE An initial meeting with neighbors of a potential off-leash park for dog in this citys south end did not go well for the Marysville Park and Recreation department.
And when residents of the Sunnyside neighborhood said Not in My Back Yard, they meant it literally.
I would like to have a park, just not behind me, said Brandi Flood, who lives next door to the site. Just not in my back yard.
About a dozen residents of a housing development adjacent to the Kiwanis Nature Park said loudly, and clearly, that they dont want the park converted to use for an off-leash park. There will be too much noise, traffic and trouble, they said, complaining that city plans would also close a path their children walk to attend Sunnyside Elementary School, on the other side of the park.
The parks department held a meeting at the school on Nov. 29 to unveil initial plans for a four-acre park on the five-acre site. A parking lot for a dozen cars would be built off the parks entrance on 40th Street NE near the new water tower and the sloped hillside would be fenced. Over time the turf would be covered with wood chips donated by landscaping firms, according to the proposal presented by parks director Jim Ballew, who said grass does not wear well with off-leash activities.
There were 33 people at the meeting, a third from the Wilderun residential area just east of the Kiwanis nature park. They were opposed to the park, which could be the first of two or three in the Marysville area. Strawberry Fields in the north end of town on 152nd St. NE is another potential site, and Snohomish County could use Mother Natures Window for a similar park in mid-town.
Jesse Thompson is president of the Wilderun homeowners association, representing 77 families, and he said none of them want the park at the Kiwanis site. The dogs in the off-leash park would set residents dogs barking. The residents now let their kids use an east-west asphalt path to access Sunnyside Elementary School at the bottom of the hill. Under the citys first draft that path would be blocked, and according to a representative from the Marysville School District, those students would have to be bussed around the block because the path doesnt meet state of Washington safety standards.
Converting the park for an off-leash use would please a special interest group of about 10 to 20 people at the cost of upsetting neighbors who have lived there for years, according to Thompson.
If we dont want it, whats the purpose of putting it in there? Thompson asked Ballew.
Flood said putting the park next to her house would hurt the resale value, although Ballew said properties near Seattles facilities like the Burke-Gilman Trail appreciated from 20 to 40 percent. Flood said she would rather drive to the Strawberry Fields site, even if gas hit $5 per gallon, than to have the park next door.
Neighbors also claimed that the park would be a mess and feared patrons would not pick up after their animals.
Carrie Wells said she likes the nature park as it is because its quiet, has lots of wildlife and is a good place to take a walk. Putting more dogs there will only degrade the place, Wells said.
I can tell you, people dont pick up their dog poop, Wells said.
Many residents said the proposed park would be too noisy. Jeff Clarke bandied a study by a university professor who suggested dog parks should be at least 300 feet from the nearest housing. He also said sanitary conditions at other parks around the nation were awful.
Right now we have quiet and solitude; we shouldnt have to put up with noise, Clarke said as he studied plans of the proposal before the meeting. We are pandering to a special interest group.
Like Flood, Clarke said the park would ruin property values.
How am I going to sell my property? he asked.
Afterwards Ballew said the dozen opponents took the proposal as a concrete plan and not the discussion starter his staff intended. Plans are not firm at this point and the city is trying to include residents wishes into any final proposal. There were several supporters of the off-leash park present at the Nov. 29 meeting but Ballew said they didnt speak up because they were intimidated by the opponents. By and large the parks department has gotten many more positive comments in favor of the proposal, and Ballew said his staff will use the comments to improve the proposal.
There are changes that could appease them, Ballew said, noting that he would probably look at whole site to mitigate concerns. The walkway access to the school is probably residents main concern.
It gave us good information to evaluate the site with.

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