Dog lovers work their “paws off” for new dog park

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Print screen of the Facebook group: Coppell Dog Park.

By Corrina Taylor
Staff Writer
Video by Keith Kellenberger

The City Council room was adorned with seats filled with Coppell citizens wearing grey shirts with green paw prints, eager for the meeting to start. The glass walls peer out into a finely polished waiting room.

The council took their seats at the front of the room; their crescent shaped desk captured the attention of the room. Mayor Karen Hunt sat in the middle just below the Coppell emblem.

Many were gathered to rally their support for a Coppell dog park; they eagerly waited in their seats for the opportunity to voice their opinions. The decision was made during the working session in which Parks and Recreations director Brad Reid gave his presentation on the effort for a dog park.

Reid gave his presentation about the dog park and the benefits and possible difficulties they would have with it. The feedback from the council was generally positive as they asked questions of how it would be arranged and what all would be needed.

Right now the designated spot for the park is at MacArthur Park in an empty lot right next to Church of the Apostles and MacArthur Park. It is expected to be a little over three acres of space for the dogs to roam without leashes. They are looking into other possibilities such as outdoor lighting, a dog park club and designated areas for dogs of certain sizes.

The official Park Board recommendation included the approval of designating the area at MacArthur park, the citizens would be required to have a 501c, a corporation to generate 20 percent of construction costs, and to enter into a license and use agreement with the city.

Hunt especially seemed enthusiastic about the process, stating she was in favor of the park and believed the citizens group should be allowed to raise money for amenities for the park if the city doesn’t pay for all of it. The council agreed to continue on with the project for the time being and will meet by January to discuss it again.

Over the past couple of months Reid has been working with Coppell resident Tracey Allard, the woman behind the effort. She first appeared in a City Council meeting last May to ask why there was not a dog park.

She then followed up with the council who directed her to the parks board, there she first met Reid and he invited her to speak at a Park Board meeting. She accepted this offer and began her research.

“I’ve facilitated her in going through the process and talking to the park board and developing some recommendations to give to the park board,” Reid said. “I have been looking around at different facilities and different communities around the region and getting examples of the way other communities are doing theirs [operating their dog parks] and facilitating that discussion with the board.”

She took on this project, and at the first park board meeting in August was able to present her budgetary estimate. She found that it would cost about $250,000 to build the park that is if they got help from the city.

In September, she went back to the park board to present information about surrounding cities and their dog parks. She found that every dog park surrounding Coppell was funded by the city, and only one required a maintenance fee for each year.

Then she met again in October to discuss their future plans to present this at the November city council meeting.

Allard has been dedicated to this issue from the beginning; she understands the nuisance it is to drive all the way to Southlake or Dallas just to go to a dog park. She understands the importance of a dog park.

“A dog park isn’t just for dogs; it’s for citizens who have something in a common, citizens who have dogs,” Allard said. “There are a lot of benefits: dogs are happy and less of nuisance in city, and it gives a sense of community. A dog park gives people who have a common interest a chance to meet and talk with people.”

Citizens were allowed to speak at the City Council meeting for a total of three minutes during the regular session.  Five citizens stood to talk about this issue that was of huge importance to them. The people that talked included disabled Citizen Bill Dugan, realtor Eva Bauer and concerned citizen Julie McCan.

Dugan talked about the importance of having a dog park so his dog could get the exercise he could not provide since he cannot move around the same way he used to. There are numerous sports facilities and parks with trails for people to use, but it is not beneficial for those too old or disabled to walk and play sports. This is another reason to bring a dog park, so people can get out and exercise with their dogs in a secure area. A dog park is accessible for every age and ability level.

Bauer revealed many clients inquire about dog parks to be disappointed Coppell does not have one, also that dog parks can raise property values. It would be another asset to Coppell that its citizens could take advantage of. McCan believed in the significance of connecting with her community.

“I feel like 95 percent of everything I do is within the Coppell city limits, but I have to drive 15 minute to get to a dog park,” McCan said. “My dog loves it and I think it really benefits them, other communities are doing it and it makes it an even more attractive place to live and raise families.”

The public has shown its support and it will be hard for the city council to ignore the 560 signatures on a paper petition, 259 signatures on the online petition and 723 likes on the Facebook page.

Dog owners are feeling positive and it is just a matter of months before they find out once and for all if Coppell will be graced with the prescience of a dog park. Dogs do not have a voice, so it is important that their owners are taking great interest in further improving the Coppell area for a wide variety of people.