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Park Board meeting draws crowd with talk of new dog park location

After hearing comments from those gathered, Worthington’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board moved to recommend further research for a dog park, but not at the former outdoor pool location near Centennial Park.

Bare lot along Liberty Dr. next to Centennial Park where the Worthington City Pool once was located.
The bare lot along Liberty Drive, near Centennial Park, is where the Worthington City Pool once was located. It was being considered as the site for a new dog park, but opposition to the site resulted in the Park Board choosing to look at different options. The site is used to stockpile snow during the winter, with still a good amount yet to melt on March 23, 2022.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

WORTHINGTON — Concerns over a proposed location for a second dog park drew a crowd inside Worthington City Hall's council chambers Wednesday afternoon for a meeting of the Park and Recreation Advisory Board.

On the agenda was discussion of a new dog park on the grounds of the E.O. Olson rearing ponds — the site of Worthington's former outdoor pool near the intersection of West Lake Avenue and Liberty Drive.

Multiple community members attended to give their opinions, including Mayor Mike Kuhle, who spoke to the room prior to the board hearing additional comments from the public.

Kuhle said the idea for a dog park on the vacant parcel, which is dedicated park space by the E.O. Olson Trust, was brought to him by several residents in town. Due to the undersized nature of the existing dog park along First Avenue Southwest — and the centralized location of the E.O. Olson site — he thought it would be a good idea, but said no formal action or plans had been made.

“I want to try and lower the temperature,” he said. “I am the one that brought (this idea) forward. This has never been discussed at city council level. It's never been part of any budget discussion. ... I think ideas like this really should come up to the committee.”

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Kuhle acknowledged he has received several letters against the dog park since the location was first proposed during the last meeting of the Park Board. A decision was made during that meeting to table the discussion in order to look further into the matter.

Several people in attendance voiced concerns over what a dog park would do in terms of access to the area and the effect on local wildlife, including local businessman Bill Keitel.

Keitel said he was approached two years ago by award-winning wildlife photographer Jim Brandenburg about contributing to the Silent Oaks Society, which is responsible for the planting of around 50 trees on public and private property in the city of Worthington. Several of the oak trees have been planted on the property surrounding the rearing ponds.

“Since the announcement of the possibility of a dog park, I've had an additional $2,000 worth of contributions,” Keitel told the board. “So there are people that are excited about this … people really do like this concept, and they realize that it's already a wildlife park right in the middle of our community.”

While Keitel’s sentiments were echoed by many other attendees, several people spoke on the need for a new dog park as well.

“I’m not saying it needs to be at the old pool area,” said Nicole Bartels, noting the current park is often crowded when she goes. “But I do think we could do better with the size of this town, and we could find something better for a dog park.”

The current dog park is just .2 acres, a noticeably smaller space compared to those in surrounding communities. There is no way to keep small dogs and bigger dogs separate, as several people who frequent the puppy park noted.

“I think everybody in the room recognizes that the (dog park) we have is inadequate compared to what other communities have,” said board member Todd Wietzema. “If (it) is recommended not to go there, then we’ll look at alternate areas and we’ll come up with a plan.”

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Once public comments were closed, the board moved to continue the research on expanding and/or obtaining new space for a dog park, but recommended it not be on the E.O. Olson site. While not a part of official action, board members also discussed the need for a long term plan for the site to be dedicated to wildlife.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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