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Town leaders reject proposed dog park

By AMY WIMMER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002

ST. PETE BEACH -- Dogs won't be getting a new park of their own here.

City commissioners had two worries: First, that the quarter-acre they could set aside for a dog park would be too small for the dogs. Second, that the area would take away too much space from other park visitors.

The split vote, with three commissioners voting against the park and two voting for it, frustrated the residents who gathered 300 petition signatures in support of a dog park.

"Nobody ever uses the park," said Susan Hershman, one of the organizers. "I've been there every day for two years, and I can count on two hands how many times I've seen people."

The city's Park and Recreation Committee recommended creating a dog park, but did not suggest a location. The City Commission had two options, Lido Park in central St. Pete Beach or Ron McKenney Park on the north end.

But the portion of Lido Park identified as a dog park location is actually owned by Florida Power, which wanted a $4,000 annual payment. And Ron McKenney Park is one of the few pieces of open green space without playground equipment or an athletic court.

The strictest opposition to a dog park came from City Commissioner Julie Christman, whose husband, Phil, works in the city's parks division. She suggested a dog park might require a staff person devoted to managing it.

The nominated spot in McKenney Park is "the only place they can throw a football and run for it," Christman said. "We all know this island does not have the proper space for a park of this kind."

Commissioners Kevan Finch and Lolly Kreider also voted against the dog park. Mayor Ward Friszolowski and Commissioner Peter Blank voted in favor.

Kreider thought the park should serve pet owners the same way it serves parents of small children, but worried about space constraints at Ron McKenney Park.

"Many people don't have a child -- that's their baby," Kreider said. "But I think there are some legitimate concerns about putting it in a park."

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