I am not a dog lover. I am not a pet lover at all..I can’t even fake petting a dog with enthusiasm. But I can understand the whole ‘my pet is part of the family’ emotion. Lots of my friends have dogs and love ’em like a child. I get it.
However, I have followed with great interest WOOF’s (Well Organized Off Lease Friends) three year quest to get an off leash dog park established in Sunnyside Park at 84th and Summit. Earlier this week the KC Parks and Rec Department once again ruined WOOF’s diligent efforts to get the OK for the park. The Parks and Rec committee, despite the recommendations of a task force that endorsed Sunnyside, voted in new guidelines for off leash parks that effectively exclude Sunnyside. Seven other ‘preferred’ sites were outlined, including one at 83rd and Oak. These new guidelines say, in part, an off leash area should be at least 5 acres. The Sunnyside park would have been approx 3.5 acres. The current KCMO off leash park at Penn Valley park measures….about 3.5 acres ….!!!
Yes, there was some neighborhood opposition to the dog park at Sunnyside. I didn’t hear or read too much reporting about those opposed. I didn’t attend any meetings. But what burns about this three year ordeal is the fact that the citizens put together a plan for the park, obtained funding, organized local support, went through all the proper channels of petitioning the city government, waited through meeting after meeting, commentary, city task forces, etc and kept inching towards their goal despite the roadblocks. They didn’t give up. A citywide task force then issued a report endorsing Sunnyside … and the Parks Dept said NO. It seems to me some sort of compromise could have been reached– a ‘trial’ period for the park at Sunnyside, perhaps–that would have included the WOOF supporters and recognized their efforts.
I don’t know Deb Hipp (buzzword: community organizer!!) but understand she’s giving up the fight. This city needs active, caring citizens like Deb to promote and enhance our neighborhoods and city amenities. A dog park is a city amenity. What has WOOF learned from this experience? That it’s no use trying to ‘fight City Hall” ? Don’t even try if you are the ‘little guy’? I remember recently reading accolades in the Star for a local neighbor who’s cleaning up Hyde Park (at his own expense) and praise for the wealthy Ward family who tends to the Rose Garden in Loose Park. City Hall seems fine with these projects To me, WOOF was trying to do something similar, and patiently went through the defined democratic process to get it done. Now, the leadership is burnt out on the fight and we’ll see how fast the city gets to setting up another dog park at 83rd and Oak. I’m betting it will take more than three years.
A dog park that would have been taken care of and supported by its users, with little or no city funding– even a non dog lover like me sees the value in that.