Process Halted for Dog Park at West Park

The recommendation to locate a dog park in West Park, across from New Hope Baptist Church, will be removed from the Ann Arbor city council’s Jan. 22 agenda. The Ann Arbor park advisory commission, which had recommended the location off of Chapin Street, was informed of the decision at its Jan. 15, 2013 meeting. Parks staff and PAC will regroup and select a new location for a dog park more centrally located to the downtown.

Several members of the church had spoken at PAC’s December 2012 meeting, objecting to problems with noise, smell and safety. The African American church is located directly across the street from the proposed dog park location. At that meeting, PAC voted to recommend that city council approve a dog park in that location. However, in response to New Hope concerns, PAC amended its original resolution to specify that parks staff and PAC would meet with church members to discuss a possibly temporary dog park at that location, and to review the status of the dog park a year after it’s in place, with particular attention to noise levels.

Subsequently, city parks staff, PAC chair Julie Grand, and former PAC member John Lawter – who had led the dog park effort – met with about a half dozen church leaders on Jan. 11. At that meeting, it emerged that the church concerns were more deeply rooted, and reflected cultural differences about what it means to have a dog park so close to their place of worship. At the Jan. 15 PAC meeting, Colin Smith, the city’s parks and recreation manager, told commissioners that based on that Jan. 11 discussion, staff had recommended the withdrawal of the dog park item from the council’s agenda and relayed that recommendation to city administrator Steve Powers.

Members of the church – some of whom had attended the Jan. 7 city council meeting to oppose the dog park – had not yet been informed of the decision, Smith said. Grand told her fellow commissioners that she was still committed to the concept of a centrally-located dog park, and that PAC and parks staff would pursue other options. A PAC subcommittee that had worked on identifying a new dog park location will be reconvened to bring forward another recommendation.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]