The parks are going to the dogs.
It is one of the most popular trends in the country: off-leash dog parks.
That isn’t lost on dog owners in Salt Lake City who often find any of the seven off-leash parks in the city to be overcrowded.
Mayor Ralph Becker is formulating a plan to expand dog parks and that could mean a fee and tag program for dog owners — something like $2 to $5 dollars per year for residents and perhaps up to 10 times that much for non-residents.
That is something that Polly Hart, a director of Millcreek FIDOS finds to be unfair.
“That singles us out as the only user group that would pay fees,” she said Wednesday night at a forum on the issue. “To visitors, it says, you are not welcome.”
Beyond more space for dogs to be off leash with their owners, the challenge according to Becker’s staff is monitoring dogs and their owners to make sure feces are cleaned up and mean dogs are kept under control.
For the past year, the mayor’s staff has been formulating a plan and collecting ideas from resident dog owners. Time is growing short, but canine owners can still provide input at www.slcgov.com/opencityhall.
Ann Ober, the city’s administrative services director, said she will take a proposal to the mayor and City Council in the coming months. She hopes the council will approve a plan by March.
She said a fee that could be paid when residents license their dogs would allow the city to set aside funding for amenities at dog parks.
Beyond determining whether the city should purchase land for new off-leash parks, Becker’s administration is considering if it should use existing parks for off-leash areas during restricted hours, or whether areas at existing parks should be fenced off for dogs to run free.
Key to any dog park program is volunteerism, Ober said. Neither Salt Lake City, nor Salt Lake County, which provides animal control services, has enough manpower to enforce rules at parks.
But Hart contends that Millcreek FIDOS was active in volunteer work at dog parks under former Mayor Rocky Anderson, but has been told not to participate by Becker.
“I want to see more volunteerism,” Hart said. “I want to see the city engage us.”
O Residents can read “Dog Park and Guardians Policy Proposal” and provide comments to Salt Lake City at www.slcgov.com/opencityhall.