The wheels of Salt Lake City government turn slowly, even when it comes to creating dog parks.
Almost two years into a process to create new off-leash parks and policies to guide them, the City Council and the administration of Mayor Ralph Becker are struggling to determine whether dog owners should pay a special fee to use off-leash parks.
For residents, such registration and accompanying tag could cost as little as $5; for nonresidents, it could be $25, according to one proposal.
To be fair, dogs are one of the most emotional topics for municipalities because residents are divided over canines. Many urban dog owners consider their pets to be an integral part of the family. But man’s best friend can be scary to kids, can take liberties with other people’s picnics, and sometimes leaves little trinkets for unsuspecting Frisbee disc players to step in.
Nonetheless, the demand for off-leash dog parks is growing. To that end, the city in 2012 set out to create new dog parks and policies that deal with them.
At its work session Tuesday, the City Council got a briefing of administration proposals, which include creating three new off-leash dog parks in Salt Lake City. They would be at Rosewood Park, 1400 N. 1200 West, Rotary Glen, 2850 E. Sunnyside Ave., and a half acre at Fairmont Park, 1040 E. Sugarmont Drive. That would bring to 10 the number of city off-leash parks.
The proposal to charge city residents a $5 off-leash fee and nonresidents $25 would provide a funding stream for an education program and off-leash park maintenance, said Rick Graham, director of public services.
Not least was a proposal that city public parks be used as off-leash parks during early mornings and late evenings. That proposal would be open to people who can demonstrate they have "voice control" over their dogs and receive a special permit to use public parks.
But that idea had little public support, Graham said.
"In the discussions we had with community councils, that did not resonate," Graham said. They told us "the parks are already overrun, dog owners don’t pick up after them and the dogs are not under voice control."
But Councilman Luke Garrott said it is "absurd" not to make use of regular parks during off-peak hours. "People are already using the parks for off-leash areas. Why should we write off [a proposal] when people are already doing it."
A $5 park fee, whether it’s for off-leash parks or public parks won’t generate much money, said Councilman Kyle LaMalfa. "This is small amount of money for the pain," he said.
In an interview, Polly Hart of Millcreek FIDOS, a dog-advocacy group, said the city’s plans to charge dog-park fees is based on a program adopted by Boulder, Colo.
But even at $15 per tag, Boulder came away with no revenue after administrative costs, she said.
Council Chairman Charlie Luke appointed Hart to a working group to analyze the administration’s proposals. The working group also would include a county resident, Salt Lake County Animal Services, and a member of the council’s staff and Becker’s staff.
The council is tentatively scheduled to take a vote on the working group’s findings at the end of June.
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