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Empire editorial: Dog park a good idea

Posted: September 11, 2011 - 12:06am

Juneau is a city that’s gone to the dogs.

Not that that’s a bad thing. The canine friends that so many Juneauites have cultivated are part of what makes our city a unique and desirable place to live in, far different than many communities pressed with a cookie-cutter.

And, Juneau might as well be Disneyland when it comes to our four-legged friends. Plentiful bodies of water to play in, a plethora of plant life to sniff out and investigate and, yes, even the occasional porcupine to avoid — if not the first time, then hopefully the second.

All of this makes us pleased to see the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee raised the prospect of creating an enclosed dog park in Juneau. It’s surprising that a town as pup-friendly as Juneau doesn’t already have one, and we think the time for such a facility may have come.

Of course, many dog owners already treat the capital city as one giant puppy playground, which is fine — to a point. Many of our parks and trails are already off-leash areas, so long as Rover is under “competent voice control.” However, only the best-trained dogs are capable of such discipline all of the time. Any pup, despite its best intentions and usual sunny and obedient character, can become overly excited, agitated or scared, causing it to act out of control, with little regard to the people it plows into, the other dogs it frightens or its owner’s commands.

A dedicated place for puppy play could minimize these issues. It could also reduce the risk of injury to dogs, whether from the aforementioned porcupines, a person caught by surprise or a car unable to hit the brakes in time.

Of course, nothing comes without a price tag, and a dog park would be no exception. Finding money for even the most worthwhile of projects can be difficult. PRAC chairman Jeff Wilson acknowledged as much when discussing a possible committee proposal to the City Assembly to fund Parks and Rec projects when Juneau faces an $8.8 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and next.

“We may get 10 cents on the dollar, we may get nothing,” Wilson said at a Tuesday PRAC meeting. “The goal right this fall is to really find out what the PRAC and the community wants for area-wide funding. I think everything is up on the table.”

If a purely public funding option isn’t feasible, perhaps a public-private partnership would be. And if any appreciable portion of dog owners in Juneau is keen to the idea, they could provide a base to tap for a fundraising effort.

PRAC is pursuing several projects, and probably not all of them can be funded and created in short order. But a dog park is one of those proposals we hope the committee — and Juneau citizens — will advocate for strongly, and one the City Assembly will seriously consider funding, in part if not in whole.

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