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Council members discuss plan to put dog park in industrial area

Monday, January 27, 2014 by Chris Thomas

The City Council discussed and postponed action Thursday on what could be a controversial new dog park located in an industrial complex in southeast Austin. The proposed park, located off Winnebago Lane in the Missouri-Pacific Industrial Complex, would be, as of now, void of any pedestrian access and only accessible by driving through the industrial complex.


Council Members Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo found themselves on opposites of this debate.


Riley, noting that the proposed park has yet to appear before the Parks and Recreation Recommendation Board and is currently zoned for industrial use said that re-zoning this land would be “a major policy decision that will affect the citizens of Austin permanently” and said it would be “premature” to dedicate this as parkland before the issue goes before the board.


While applauding the Parks Department, Riley also challenged PARD to find different areas for parks. “One of the reasons why some of the dog parks we do have, have been so treasured is that they are visible, convenient, and readily accessible. I’d hope that while we continue our efforts to find additional dog park areas, we’re not going to be seeing a pattern of sticking parks in industrial areas.”


Later Riley told the Austin Monitor via email, “For some time now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to meet the growing demand for urban parks, and for off-leash dog areas in particular. I hope we can come up with better answers than to expect everyone to load up in their cars and drive for miles into an industrial area to let their dogs run. 


“Imagine Austin envisions parks that are centerpieces of the community: places that are well connected to neighborhoods, and that play a strong role in promoting healthy lifestyles. Maybe a dog park on Winnebago Lane could work well; but before we take the permanent step of dedicating parkland there or anywhere, we ought to think carefully about whether that step is heading us in the direction suggested by our comprehensive plan,” he concluded.


In her support of the park, Tovo said this was a “success story” and mentioned the Mable Davis Park controversy in 2011. “This a very good example of the way in which we work collaboratively with our community. There was a concern about putting a dog park in Mable Davis; they proactively looked for sites to suggest to PARD and PARD has moved forward with making that happen.”


When asked about concerns over the lack of pedestrian access, Tovo said she “understands those concerns and supports better access to pedestrians and the neighborhoods as a goal.” While she fully supports this issue going through the process of re-zoning, Tovo said she’s “reluctant to see this drag on much, much longer.”


The property as it stands today, approximately 9.4 acres of land, is currently managed by Austin Resource Recovery.

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