Thursday, July 10, 2014
For more than two years, the dog park in Olympia Park has divided Mt Washington residents. Mayor Bill Peduto has waded into the controversy, and for the past few months he and his staff have been meeting with residents on both sides of the debate.
Yesterday he announced a compromise had been reached: The dog park will be torn down and moved to an area behind Olympia Park's baseball field near the trails. (The current site will be retained until the new one can be constructed.) While that came as a welcome solution to at least one vocal opponent of the park, dog park supporters don't see it as a compromise at all.
"This is the absolutely last thing we thought would happen," says Adam Paul Cosgrove, president of Paws for Olympia Park. "It was the last thing we wanted. Moving it to the woods was not an option."
Cosgrove says he and other supporters met with Peduto's staff the day before the announcement, and received no indication the park would be moved to the trails.
"During this entire process, the mayor's office promised us: They said there will be a dog park in Mt Washington, specifically a dog park," Cosgrove says. "They're basically telling us they're going to rip out the dog park, just take your dogs for a walk in the woods. You can't have a dog park back there; there's no room."
Members of Paws are still uncertain what the relocated dog park will entail and whether it will be fenced in.
"Public Works is going to study the site and determine the best plans for dog park there," says spokesperson Tim McNulty. "It may be fenced in, but that hasn't (yet) been determined."
In the less than 24 hours since Mayor Bill Peduto announced the dog park in Mt. Washington would be removed, supporters of the park have collected more than 430 signatures on a petition calling for the park to stay where it is.
The dog park is "a catalyst that enables neighbors who would otherwise not talk to each other to meet each other," says Danielle Gerson, who was at the park this morning. "When people are outside, it creates a kind of neighborhood watch so it makes the community safer. I really hope the park stays open."
Gerson recently purchased a home close to Olympia Park. She says her decision was based on its proximity to the dog park.
"I can't tell you how many friends my partner and I have made," says Gerson. "I really think it's a great way to foster community, and that's why we wanted to move here."
But the proximity of homes to the dog park is exactly why some opponents have opposed it.
"The issue really was that it was 35 feet from homes," says Patricia Ward, who lives across the street from the park. "It was too close to our homes."
Ward has been a vocal opponent of the dog park, citing issues with noise and dog waste being left in the park. She also reiterated concerns that off-leash dogs have been able to escape the fenced-in area.
"I'm relieved" by Peduto's decision, Ward says. "I know the people who use the dog park are really disappointed. But there are other dog parks in the city."