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Dog Park Advocates Frustrated with City over Grant Application

Baihly Warfield
Updated: July 11, 2018 06:43 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - A local dog park advocate is frustrated with the city's lack of response to her attempt to line up funding for park enhancements. City officials say partnerships with citizens are valuable, but now is not the right time to seek funding for the proposals.

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Denette Lynch, a dog park advocate who's participated in many parks projects, would like to see running water and lights installed at Keene Creek Dog Park in West Duluth.

"If you look around, there's five-gallon pails of water. People bring in water from the creek, which has questionable clarity," Lynch said. 

She said in June, she tried to apply for a $5,000 grant from a company called PetSafe. It's a national grant, so there was no guarantee Duluth would get it. But one piece of the application was written support from the city. 

"They said that it wasn't ready for a grant writing, which is hard to understand," Lynch said. 

Lynch also tried to apply for a $10,000 PetSafe grant in 2017 and couldn't do it then either. She said volunteers would put together the submission, and it does not require a city match.

According to a letter Parks Manager Will Roche sent to the Duluth City Council on Monday, "it's simply premature" to apply for funds without cost estimates and further study.

"...without this information a $10,000 grant may ultimately turn into a $30,000 project or one we simply would not initiate," Roche wrote. 

But Lynch thinks the city had options. She said if awarded, the money could have gone to any one of three projects: installing well water and lights at Jean Duluth Dog Park, installing running water at Keene Creek, or helping finish funding the installation of lights and water at the Gary-New Duluth Rec Dog Park. 

"We primarily self-fund," Lynch said of Duluth's dog parks and the people that use them. "We want to continue to be able to build and improve our dog parks using our own funding, grant funding and however we can. We would like the city to just allow us to do that."

Jim Filby Williams, Duluth's director of public administration, said the city has an internal review process for "community-submitted proposals." 

"We understand that the slow progress of that review process is frustrating for folks," Filby Williams said. 

But he said they have to ask the right questions. 

"If we're talking about installing running water, you have to look and see, where is the nearest water pipe? How much does it cost to run water from one location to another?" Filby Williams asked. "More importantly, what expertise and park maintenance resource will it take over time to operate and maintain that seasonally and on an ongoing basis?"

He said the last question is especially important because there have been cuts in parks maintenance staff recently. 

Plus, he pointed out that there has been significant growth in the number of dog parks. 

"Since just 2014, we've increased the number of dog parks from one to four, so an increase of 300 percent," Filby Williams said. 

He doesn't know of any other park user groups that have seen that type of growth in recent years. So the city's challenge is finding a balance.

"For every request that we get for a change at a dog park, we get 20 more for changes and improvements that are equally important at hockey rinks and baseball fields and playgrounds and beaches," he said. 

The letter Roche wrote to the council said a "detail design" process for Keene Creek will begin this year. 

"In this, we define scope, determine the feasibility, identify field concerns (to the extent possibly by field survey) and narrow broad cost estimates that were previously identified in the master plan," Roche wrote.

Parks improvement proposals can be submitted through the city's website.

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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