Neighbors sic council on dogs in minipark
By JON WILSON
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Dogs leave their mark in the Millennium Youth playground, a swatch of green in the Uptown neighborhood.
And, not surprisingly, they have worn out their welcome, says neighborhood president Steve Finch.
Finch has gone to City Hall for help in getting dogs out of the minipark he helped create a year ago.
"In a play area, I don't see any connection between children and excitable dogs," said Finch, who has also announced his candidacy for the District 4 City Council seat.
A problem, said Finch, is that dog feces wind up in the rubber tire chips used as ground covering under playground equipment and sometimes gets onto the swings themselves.
Finch's concern stirred City Council subcommittee interest a few days ago. Members asked the city's legal staff to draft an ordinance that would ban dogs from the playground.
The committee could see the draft as early as this week. The committee could send it forward to the full City Council, which would hold a hearing before voting for or against it.
If approved by the full council, the ordinance could have an impact beyond Millennium Youth, which is about a block square in size, on Seventh Street N and Sixth Avenue.
Other neighborhoods in which parks are located could ban from their parks dogs and all other domestic animals, said Mark Winn, the chief assistant city attorney.
However, a neighborhood vote and City Council approval would be required in each neighborhood case.
There is no campaign afoot to banish dogs from public property everywhere in the city, said leisure services administrator Lee Metzger.
"I am not anticipating this to be citywide, and that all of a sudden dogs are not allowed in city parks," Metzger said.
"But I think there are some isolated, specific cases like Millennium Youth where it's a small area, fenced in.
"We've allowed neighborhoods to have more of a say in parks, and this is just an extension of that," Metzger said.
Dogs running loose have become an issue in some city parks. For example, North Shore Park includes an area informally known as "dog beach," where owners bring their pets to frolic off leash, though doing so is a city ordinance violation. Confrontations between dog owners and non-owners have resulted; police sometimes have been called.
Meanwhile, leisure service officials continue to search for a dog park where dogs could play unleashed.
One such area proposed for Coquina Key is on hold, although the neighborhood association in December voted 27-16 to go ahead with plans. Since then, some residents have protested the vote, leading officials to back off.
"We want to be fair," Metzger said. "Yes, we'd like to try a dog park. But we don't want to force it on anybody."
One possible area could be a small section of Crescent Lake Park, said Crescent Lake neighborhood president Clifford Holensworth.
It is between the tennis courts and baseball field and already is fenced on three sides, said Holensworth, who owns a small dog named Calvin.
"I thought it would a natural area," he said.
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