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It's a canine quandary: To expand the Avenues off-leash area at Lindsey Gardens — or to not let it go to the dogs.

Lindsey Gardens is one of the Avenues' great treasures, where youngsters play ball, teenagers toss Frisbees and families gather for picnics — oh yes, and where dog owners romp with their four-legged pals.

Currently, the park has a designated off-leash area north of Seventh Avenue near N Street.

But proponents of expanding the off-leash area say the existing dog park is too small to let Fidos run and doesn't accommodate the large number of dog owners and their pets who frequent Lindsey Gardens.

Practically every day, canines and their masters play catch and frolic on the "passive recreation" field that runs from M Street to N Street and from Seventh Avenue to Eighth Avenue. It's not an off-leash area and it's not legal to let dogs run free there, but it is common, according to park users.

"We've been using this area at Lindsey Gardens for years," said pet owner and dog park expansion proponent Adele Breeden. "It's not legal, but we'd like to make it legal so we don't get tickets."

Breeden and more than 100 others submitted a petition last month to the Greater Avenues Community Council asking to expand the dog park within Lindsey Gardens.

"I grew up in the country," Breeden said. "We all had dogs and we all had kids, and we all got along."

The Community Council is slated to vote on the matter Feb. 6, said Chairwoman Gwen Springmeyer.

If approved, the petition would be forwarded to the administration of Mayor Ralph Becker and then eventually to the Salt Lake City Council for consideration.

But Avenues resident Susan Malmskog has talked to dozens of residents in her neighborhood and said many don't support expanding the off-leash area. They, too, have submitted a petition.

The field in question is the only open area in the Avenues that isn't a ball field, school playground or cemetery, Malmskog said.

"Most people want to preserve the multi-use status there," she said, where people can picnic or toss a ball without interference from frisky dogs.

Second, Malmskog said, safety is an issue for small children playing in the park with large numbers of excitable canines.

She recalled that her neighbor took his 6-year-old sledding recently at Lindsey Gardens. Dogs chased the boy as he rode his sled down the hill. "He got very upset and they had to go home," she said.

The Lindsey Gardens debate comes as Becker's administration is working toward updating the city's dog park master plan, said Ann Ober, director of administrative services. The plan is still being fine-tuned, she said last week, but it could come before the City Council for approval by the end of February.

Although Becker's staff has been considering increasing and enlarging dog parks, an expansion of Lindsey Gardens' off-leash area has not been on their radar — until now. But if it were to be approved by the Greater Avenues Community Council at the Feb. 6 meeting, it could be incorporated into the master plan.

The City Council, however, is not bound by the Community Council's recommendation.

If the Community Council does approve an expansion, the administration and City Council would evaluate the proposal based on 14 criteria, Ober said.

Among those criteria is this: "The off-leash area will not unduly occupy, interfere or displace existing activities, facilities or other historical factors or areas in the park."

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