The Kalispell City Council reviewed initial plans for the city’s first off-leash dog park at its Feb. 27 meeting.
City staff have proposed establishing the site at Begg Park on the south end of town off Airport Road.
Chad Fincher, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said a recent public meeting was held with residents in the neighborhood around a 3.5-acre section of the 6.24-acre park. A total of 779 letters were mailed to residents in the surrounding area and 11 residents showed up to the Jan. 25 meeting to discuss the tentative plans along with members of Paws to Play, a local nonprofit group that has raised funds and advocated for a designated dog park in Kalispell.
The city has received 15 letters about the park and all but two expressed support for the dog park.
Fincher said a concern raised at the public meeting involved parking, particularly during legion baseball games at the adjacent fields where the Kalispell Lakers play in the spring and summer months.
“I anticipate if this is as popular as everyone tells me, it will be busy,” Kalispell councilor Rod Kuntz said, agreeing with the parking concerns.
Other councilors raised issue with the city potentially using funds from the tax increment finance district to establish the park, which is estimated to cost $49,935 to set up fencing and a drainage system.
“I think if this is something the city wants to do, I think we need to look at funding it in next budget cycle in the general fund versus tax increment financing,” Councilor Phil Guiffrida said.
Former city councilor Jeff Zauner, who serves on the city’s Urban Renewal Agency Board, said he opposes the location of the dog park because it would take over a public gathering place for families and other residents in the large residential neighborhood.
“That is the only park that the families can utilize in that location,” he said. “If you take away this park, where will families go?”
The existing amenities at Begg Park, such as the gazebo, basketball court and children’s playground, would remain intact, Fincher said.
The city will review the proposal and potentially take action at an upcoming meeting.
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