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Helmut Schmidt, Published July 30 2009

No spot found for Spot

A proposal to build a dog park near downtown Fargo was met with less than tail-wagging joy Wednesday by a Park District subcommittee because land issues in the built-up area have gnawed away several site options suggested by supporters.

Brad Wimmer, a downtown businessman, proposed to the Facility Committee that a dog park could be sited on:

School District land on the north side of Hawthorne Elementary.

One of the two softball diamonds at Dill Hill just south of Island Park.

An open space in Island Park.

“I think this one would create a great mix of activity,” said Wimmer, who is also a city commissioner. “A great neighborhood meeting ground.”

While the proposal perked up some ears, the reaction to it varied from howls of protest from the School District, to growls of worry from Park District staff.

Dan Huffman, the School District’s assistant superintendent for business services, said the district has limited play space at the school, and that the activities of children and a dog park “are mutually exclusive.”

A proposal by Wimmer to have the dog park only be used after the school day and on weekends was also seen as unworkable by Huffman and Park Board members.

“It’s either a dog park or it’s not a dog park,” Huffman said.

Park District staff said a dog park would need one acre for large dogs and a half-acre for small dogs.

Staff said having one park for both sizes of dogs doesn’t work well.

In an impromptu brainstorming session, potential sites at Dike East or Dike West were dismissed for lack of space or spring flooding concerns.

Park District Executive Director Roger Gress and other staff said the Dill Hill softball fields are regularly used and there are no replacements for them in the near future.

Also, the spaces in Island Park already attract other uses, from tanning to bike polo, Gress said, and changes to the park are met with great scrutiny.

“Island Park is obviously a very special park in our community,” Gress said.

Two parks that may have space are just northeast of the downtown proper, Gress said. They include Oak Grove Park and Wildflower Grove Park, both in the Oak Grove neighborhood.

But in both of those areas, high water from the Red River during spring floods could threaten to damage a fenced dog park.

Committee members agreed that staff should continue studying alternatives for a dog park in the downtown area.

Fargo has two dog parks, one at Yunker Farm on the north side, and another northwest of the Village West shopping area and just east of 45th Street South.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583