West U City Council Forum: Candidates Discuss a West U Dog Park
InstantNewsWestU.com is hosting an online candidate forum for the West U City Council candidates.
Questions and the candidates’ answers will be published throughout the weeks leading up to early voting.
There are five candidates vying for four city council seats. Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample, Councilman Dick Yehle, Councilwoman Joan Johnson and Councilman Ed Heathcott are all running for re-election. Friends of West U Parks Board Member Sonny Brandtner is running for a city council seat.
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Candidates’ answers are published as they are received, without any editing by InstantNewsWestU.com. The candidates’ responses were originally posted in ballot order and are rotated each week.
In years past, the City of West U has looked into the possibility of purchasing land for a dog park. It appeared that many residents were in favor of a dog park but no one wanted it built next to their home.
Would you be in favor of a West U dog park?
If you support a dog park, how would you select the location?
Would you support building a dog park even if it was met with the opposition of surrounding neighbors?
Susan Sample –
I have had canine companions throughout my life and have made regular use of various dog parks. I do not believe however, that West U needs its own dog park, nor that one would be feasible to construct. The basic goal of a dog park is to provide a safe environment for canines to exercise off-leash and a social gathering place for their owners. WUP already has an easily accessible 2.76-acre county dog-park about one mile away – Danny Jackson Dog Park. Since most, if not all, dog-park users drive to such areas, it would be unnecessarily duplicative to build another dog park when we have one so close. With respect to feasibility, in order to serve its purpose of providing a space large enough for off-leash dogs to exercise, the preferred minimum dog-park area size as recommended by the American Kennel Club is one (1) acre. In addition, space would have to be added for ample parking, making the size requirement closer to 2 acres, an almost unheard of amount of available space for WUP. In addition, a park of this size would tend to attract non-resident users from miles around West U. A smaller area within an existing park would not satisfy the vision of anyone wanting an off-leash area because the limited size couldn’t foster dog play and social interaction. Such a facility would be more of a dog elimination area, which I doubt many residents would want to add to their community or existing parks.
Ed Heathcott –
A dog park in and of itself could be a good asset for the community. However, I suppose my position is I favor people over dogs. This specialty park has been previously reviewed. In the past, residents living near any possible location were adamantly opposed. The cost was also quite substantial. We do have to make choices with the city’s money and I believe this money could be allocated to other endeavors which would better serve the entire community. Any park money available, to me, would be better spent on the purchase of land for an additional city park as detailed in our Parks Master Plan. This would benefit the children and adults of West U in a broader more beneficial way.
Sonny Brandtner –
The statement I hear from our residents most frequently is, “yes I would love a dog park; BUT, not next to my house”.
A dog park will increase non-resident traffic and parking. Also, the city would have to provide continuous dog poop management to control odors and rodents.
Two compromises to explore:
1 – Dogs love a short car ride, right? A dog park on land close but outside our residential community could be an option. For example, we could close the recycling station on Dincans St. (currently operating as a loss). The recycling station can be converted into a dog park until the property is sold.
I would be in favor of limiting the use of our dog park to members of the West U Recreation Center. This restriction would limit non-resident park use, increase our Recreation Center membership and generate cash flow to manage the park’s poop. Dog washing stalls and a deli for our puppies could be considered for additional park revenue. These services could be outsourced.
2 – There is a very nice dog park close to West U on West Park. The city of Houston has started a trail from the dog park towards West U. We could work with the utility company, railroad, Bellaire and Houston to extend the trail to reach our furry residents so they can be walked to the already existing dog park. Runners, walkers and CATS could use the trail as well.
Dick Yehle –
A dog park would be a popular amenity but I know of no existing or potential location in West U that is large enough or sufficiently buffered from neighboring houses to accommodate it. I would consider a dog park outside of West U on property owned or controlled by the City. However, such a park would probably attract a lot of non-West U users which could challenge the willingness of West U taxpayers to fund it. In summary, landlocked West U does not have a site suitable for a good dog park, a service that is currently being provided by the 2.76 acre but still relatively small, Danny Jackson Family Dog Park provided by Harris County on Westpark Drive.
Joan Johnson –
Since I have two small dogs, I would love to have a dog park in West U. But there are several things to consider in making this happen. First of all a Committee of Residents did research this about 8 – 10 years ago, but it did not become a reality due to the opposition of neighbors at the recommended location. Finding a location for a dog park would entail research on available land and again how the neighbors to that site felt about a dog park in their area. One consideration may be the area behind the Weingarten Shopping Center on Academy. One of our WUP Citizens recommended that we consider this area for a possible park at the last Parks & Recreation Board Meeting. This certainly is something that we should research.
No, I would not be in favor of building a dog park in a location where the neighbors were in opposition. This has been an ongoing problem, not only for a dog park, but for all parks. Over the years when researching locations for parks, we have found that residents are in favor of a park or dog park, but not next to them. This makes it very difficult to move ahead with park development since as a Council Member, I want to be responsive to our residents input.