Council gives approval to Auburn Ravine dog park

By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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Despite impassioned pleas from a group of Lincoln Crossing residents, the Lincoln City Council unanimously voted to build a permanent dog park in Auburn Ravine before a loudly applauding crowd of canine owners on Tuesday. Council members previously authorized construction for the 10-acre site, but had not formally approved the project until Tuesday’s meeting. The decision also certified a mitigated negative declaration document for the park, which was circulated in December after incorporating comments from a prior circulation. During a lengthy public hearing, opinions were nearly equally split between dog owners in support of the location and Lincoln Crossing residents concerned that their properties would be impacted. “I think this is the most commentary we’ve had on a park project ever,” said Councilman Spencer Short. Since 2002, the city has operated a temporary dog park, first at a Lincoln Cemetery District-owned property at Santa Clara Way and Third Street and recently in Foskett Regional Park, at the location of a future aquatics center. The proposed permanent site would be surrounded by approximately 50 acres of open space and accessed by Moore Road to the east and Green Ravine Drive in Lincoln Crossing to the south. The park is approximately 250 feet away from neighboring homes. Other potential sites included a pre-existing dog training facility on Fiddyment Road and a 2-acre vernal pool preserve in Joiner Park, but Lincoln chose Auburn Ravine because it is centrally located, would provide parking and is somewhat isolated from adjoining areas, said George Dellwo, the city’s assistant director of community development. Though David McCray, president of the Lincoln Crossing Homeowners Association, agreed Lincoln should have a dog park, he said the HOA is opposed to the particular location. McCray suggested the city consider keeping the park at Foskett Regional Park. “Parking is already taken care of, there’s ample space, open space and traffic doesn’t go through a neighborhood,” he said. William Mix, a resident of Green Ravine Drive, said his home bordering the proposed primary entrance would be one of the worst impacted. “I was promised by Lincoln Crossing when I purchased that home that it would be open space,” he said. “I paid extra.” Lincoln resident Jeannie Woodcock said she wasn’t concerned so much about noise, but about the negative impact to ravine wildlife. “It doesn’t matter about how much barking dogs do – their scent alone can destroy wildlife,” she said. “It’s kind of ironic that the city of Lincoln prides itself on being an All-American city when part of the criteria for that is community decision making.” Councilman Tom Cosgrove countered that the city did in fact include the public as parks and recreation identified locations. “It’s a very structured, formalized process … we have to respond and address concerns that come up and I’m satisfied that we’ve been able to address concerns related to environmental issues,” he said. “I read the entire mitigated negative declaration, and I see all questionable areas have been addressed and mitigated,” said regular park-goer Marlene Stoner. “Our dogs will be really happy to start playing at the Auburn Ravine dog park as soon as you can get us over there.” Dog owner Rachel Laforest pointed out that at a May 8 Parade of Pooches in Sun City, more than 100 dogs congregated peacefully. “There was no barking, no fights, no complaints,” she said. “And a dog park doesn’t generally have 100 dogs at once.” Besides, she said, “Though some (residential) lots may carry a premium, there is no guarantee the view will remain as is at time of sale.” While park users will be required to pick up after their own dogs, the city will monitor dog waste weekly and retain the power to close the park if owners don’t comply with regulations, said Mayor Primo Santini. While not discounting the significance of mitigation measures, Santini expressed confidence in the final outcome. “I honestly don’t think the dog park will have any more impact on the area than the people park – it’s called a dog park, but it’s really a park for people with dogs,” he said. “Even with all the construction along Auburn Ravine, wildlife is still plentiful. I think wildlife is not scared away by (development) as long as humans don’t harass it.”