Dog park feud boils

Neighors unhappy city will continue with plan despite their objections
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Some neighbors are howling over an off-leash dog park the city is planning for Wasatch Boulevard.

Tim Misewicz, who lives across the street, calls it a $1 million dog sewer.

Mary Wall foresees a boondoggle pushed by city officials who didn't bother to seek approval from the taxpayers most affected by it - neighboring homeowners like her.

And, her husband, Karl, says it will be the ruin of a mini-wildlife preserve that has sprouted in the 2.5-acre lot.

All three intend to fight the dog park. Besides the community organizing and letter writing they already have done, they will attend a city-sponsored public meeting, 7 p.m., Oct. 30, at Cottonwood Heights City Hall, 1265 E. Fort Union Blvd.

The three neighbors are galled that city officials are ready to proceed over their objections.

"We feel like it's being crammed down our throats," said Misewicz, who has consulted his attorney about the dog park.

"When you feel like you are being lied to, you want to fight."

City planners, with the help of a community advisory committee, are in the final stages of drafting detailed plans. The location, at the corner of 3500 East and Wasatch Boulevard at about 8200 South, currently serves as a catch basin for stormwater and as a Park N' Ride lot that provides overflow parking to the four ski areas in the Cottonwood canyons.

Kevin Smith, deputy city manager, said reworking the drainage system will cost more than $300,000. Another $500,000 or more is needed for developing parking spaces, building berms, landscaping and building an off-leash area that many residents have clamored for.

He said the city had no legal responsibility to notify residents about the plan. But it has reached out repeatedly for their input, and to address their concerns, through newspaper articles and community notices.

There are about 38,000 residents in Cottonwood Heights, about 2,800 licensed dogs and no sanctioned off-leash areas.

"There's lots of support, and then there's a lot of concern about it," Smith said. "It's just one of those things with lots of emotion on both sides."

Like Misewicz, Mary Wall wonders why the city didn't keep neighbors informed and now intends to take comments on the design plans - not the question of whether the park is needed and wanted. Only one of the 30 surrounding neighbors she's contacted supports the park, she said.

"It's like the rug's been pulled out from under us and we're still in the air waiting to fall on our butts," she said.

The Walls and Misewicz say they thought the idea was so silly when they first heard about it more than a year ago that they assumed it would simply die.

They're convinced it will stink of dog urine and feces. They doubt poop-pickup will be policed. They suspect it will become a noisy "bark park."

An area that used to be a dust bowl when the Walls moved across the street 13 years ago has become a badly needed parking lot for ski-bus riders and a wetland classroom for local students.

Misewicz sometimes brings his hunting dogs to work among the cattails. The Walls laid on the boardwalk one night this spring to watch the space shuttle zip overhead, and they sometimes check out the birds, including grosbeaks, killdeer, flickers and Red-winged Blackbirds.

The wetlands-dirt-and-paved lot also has been used as a helicopter staging area for mountain rescues, they said.

"This place works," said Mary Wall. "It works for [catching] the [runoff] water. It works for the parking."

"This is a great place the way it is," said Misewicz. "Why change it?"