OP/ED: City disregards residents in dog park decision

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
June 3rd, 2010

Not many things guarantee re-election problems for local politicians more often than regularly demonstrated inconsistencies in process. In fact, process problems, or lack thereof, contributed heavily to the huge turnover in the faces at city council in Grand Forks during the last election. Although one might agree that the last council’s problems were exacerbated through encouragement of their city manager, however process or at least the perception of proper process, in the decisions made at the local government table is critical. The decision of where to locate the dog park in Grand Forks has taken the time of two different councils and many shifts in perspective, but the final decision, made at council May 10, was certainly an inconsistent action made without consideration of the residents of the city.

The very first time I heard about a dog park it was going to be put at James Donaldson Park in a grassy area near the highway. For whatever reasons, this was refused at the time and the search began for a new location. Then they looked at City Park and a spot near the BMX track just west of the campground. Again, complaints that property owners (only really one was close) were not interested in the noise, a turn out of BMX parents complaining about a lack of consultation, and complaints from the Seniors Hall drove the group to look again at another location although still in City Park.

A presentation done in April at council by the dog park group and Councillor Chris Moslin clearly said how advantageous it was to place the dog park in the existing park, with access to the river for the dogs to play. In one fell swoop this decision was overturned when staff was asked to recommend a location – suddenly dogs don’t need water, don’t want to be in the park, and should be in the city cemetery!

What was stunning in this decision is the inconsistency of process – a complete disregard of the residents who live adjacent to the new dog park / cemetery. When the dog park was going to be in the City Park the needs of BMX parents (who use the site weekends and a couple of evenings each week) and the Seniors Hall (who are not residents – only visitors to the hall) were completely taken into account, process halted and consultation begun.

When the decision came before council to place the dog park in the cemetery, they were told it would only impact one resident and chose not to consult. Bottom line is – the cemetery area is all residential! Did I mention that the cemetery is a quiet place for people to visit loved ones?

Now I get it that both the council and the dog park group just want this whole decision to be done. It has taken time and energy by all trying to convince other parties that there won’t be problems with having a dog park. While the dog group in one moment says water access is important, suddenly the cemetery location is fine. Council is done with having the topic come back to the table over and over again.

But to make this decision without even notifying adjacent residents that an area, normally not a heavily used area, will have such a radical change – traffic, dogs barking, extra feces to clean up – is just downright inconsiderate!

Take this on note council – consistency in process is critical to your future. Fairness is important to all the taxpayers and if the intent is to only consult when there is a large group facing off with you, there will probably be a quiet revolution growing.

Categories: Politics