This artistic rendering shows a proposed design for a combination dog park/botanical garden at Patterson Park in Grosse Pointe Park.

This artistic rendering shows a proposed design for a combination dog park/botanical garden at Patterson Park in Grosse Pointe Park.

Rendering provided by Grosse Pointe Park

Grosse Pointe Park dog park proposal turns into a dogfight

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 1, 2019

GROSSE POINTE PARK — A proposed dog park at Patterson Park sparked intense debate during a Sept. 23 Grosse Pointe Park City Council meeting.

City Councilman Daniel Grano said the city retained a landscape architect over the summer to come up with a design for the park, which would occupy roughly half of an acre in the area between the fountain and the backyards of homes on Grand Marais Road, just north of the parking lot.

“It’s not just a dog park — it’s a dog park plus a botanical garden,” Grano said. “It would benefit all, not just those with dogs.”

He said the dog park would feature a double gate and a 4-foot-high fence. Key fobs for park users would likely be issued, but Grano said applicants would need a valid park pass and would need to license their dog or dogs with the city — which few do now — to qualify for a dog park key fob.

The cost to license a dog is $25, and Grano said there would also be a charge for the key fob, although the exact amount hadn’t been finalized at press time. Dog owners would need to show proof of vaccinations for rabies and other conditions.

“The increased license (and fob) fees should generate enough revenue to cover (dog park) maintenance,” Grano said.

Anonymous donors have offered $120,000 to pay for the dog park, Grano said. He said the park itself is expected to cost about $110,000 to build, so the contributions would fully cover construction.

Neighbors on Grand Marais would be separated from the dog park by plantings, an existing berm and property that stretches between the berm and the residential backyards, Grano said. He said the dog park would be 50 feet from the back fence of the closest residents; by comparison, Grosse Pointe Farms’ dog park is 30 feet from the back door of the closest home.

“Nobody wants a dog park in their backyard,” Grano said. “That was understood. … We did try to find a space that’s the least obtrusive to neighbors.”

The plan includes irrigation and draining, and “preserves the open area between the berm and the backyard fences of neighbors on Grand Marais,” Mayor Robert Denner said.

City Councilwoman Lauri Read, who wasn’t on the council when the dog park issue was last under discussion, made a motion to table the proposal “until we have proper public engagement.” The motion failed after only Read voted in favor of tabling.

“I am for a dog park,” Read said. “I want us to get it right, and I want us to have the data to back up our decision.”

Read said she felt they didn’t need to make a decision immediately. Denner said the reason the council needed to act quickly is that if they’d like to pursue the dog park idea and make it available for users next year, they would need to do plantings this fall.

Grano said he agreed with Read that the council should have data to back its decisions, but he said part of the job of a council member is to know what residents want.

“I don’t play pickleball, but a number of people do,” Grano said of the decision to bring pickleball courts to the Park. “It’s clear to me that there are hundreds of people in this community that want a dog park.”

“The issue of a dog park is not new,” City Councilman Daniel Clark said. “Four years ago, this was pretty extensively dealt with.”

The issues at that time included cost — the city didn’t have the money to build the park — and location, he said. They looked at a portion of Patterson Park close to Essex Drive, but Clark said there were a number of problems with that location.

A number of residents, including those living closest to the proposed dog park, criticized city officials for not letting them know about the plan and the council meeting earlier. Ann Rock, of Grand Marais, said she heard about the Monday meeting from a neighbor the Wednesday beforehand, while others said their first inkling that this was going to be discussed was a notice that was dropped off in their mailboxes the Friday before the meeting.

While Rock said this might have been discussed at length in the past, the dog park has “been a dead issue” for the last four years.

Grand Marais resident Joe Gleason also voiced opposition to the proposal.

“That park is designed for young children and older adults,” he told the council. “You are putting this community 100% at risk. It is absolutely wrong. … And you are trying to railroad this through tonight.”

Jerome Rock called the dog park “an obstruction in the middle of Patterson Park” that would detract from the view and take away what he said is “the prettiest part” of the park.

“We don’t object to a dog park,” Jerome Rock said. “We are very concerned about the quality of what goes there. … That location is wrong.”

Mark Baron, another Grand Marais resident, had other worries.

“We’re not against a dog park … but what about our dogs?” he asked. “Our dogs go nuts when they see our neighbors’ dogs.”

His wife, Lesley Baron, said the council needed to take into account the fact that the homes were there first.

Grand Marais resident Amy Muzingo said she felt like the proposal was being “shoved down our throat” and was too rushed.

“If you vote on it tonight, there’s going to be a lot of bitterness,” she warned the council.

There were also residents who expressed support for a dog park. John Martin said he’s taken his dog to dog parks in Detroit, where “the onus is on the owners to control their dogs, and they do.” He said many of the fears people typically have about dog parks turn out to be untrue.

“These parks are quiet,” Martin said. “The dogs are happy and they play. There is no smell. There is no noise.”

Jack Callas said his property backs up to Pierce Middle School, whose playground has become “a de facto dog park,” even though this use isn’t allowed. He said residents living near the Patterson Park proposed dog park site “don’t have anything to fear,” at least based on his experience.

“I have never seen a problem,” Callas said. “And (the dogs) are not noisy — they don’t bark.”

Park resident Christina Anton agreed that dog parks aren’t loud.

“(They’re) crazily quiet, actually,” she said.

Anton said not everyone in the Park has a large yard for their dog to exercise.

“Patterson belongs to everybody,” she said. “I think we need to take everyone’s concerns into account. … I’ve paid tons of taxes here for lots of amenities that I don’t use.”

Mike Bannon said noise “decreases exponentially with distance.”

“There is robust documentation as to the safety and efficacy of dog parks,” he said.

City Councilwoman Barb Detwiler said the donations are contingent on the dog park being located at Patterson Park. She told residents she wasn’t sure if the city would still get the funding if the location at Patterson Park changed.

Detwiler agreed with Grano that the city needed to move forward on a dog park. Despite residents arguing that Patterson Park is the city’s more tranquil park, she said it has plenty of activities, including a putting green, ice skating rink and the new pickleball courts.

“That’s not exactly the definition of a passive park,” Detwiler said.

She said the majority of survey respondents four years ago were in favor of a dog park.

“I know everyone is going to have different opinions about where a dog park should go or if we should have a dog park at all,” said Detwiler, but she added that to table the proposal now “would be a disservice” to residents.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of directing city administrators and the Parks and Recreation Department to pursue a dog park proposal at Patterson Park and use the proposal they have now as a starting point. The motion, made by Denner, included a directive to get additional public input and further study the question of the dog park’s location at Patterson Park.

Read, who said she didn’t see why the dog park had to be placed at Patterson Park and why a vote couldn’t be delayed until after getting more community input, cast the dissenting vote.

Denner said a final decision about the location and park design would come before the council for a vote at a later date.