It’s going to be a paw-some year for dog owners in Mansfield as city leaders consider plans for its first off-leash dog park possibly off West Broad Street near Historic Downtown.
How did it happen and what does it all mean? Residents, and pets, are understandably excited for details. But first, a quick look behind the scenes at how a project like this gets underway and how Mansfield city leaders are making sure the public is an integral part of the process.
As with any major city project, creating a new park is no easy undertaking. Add the unique safety, environmental and liability issues that come with a dog park, and you’ve got a project that park planners say involves an incredible amount of research and attention to detail.
“First and foremost the location is key to a successful dog park,” said Senior Park Planner James Fish. “It should be easily accessible to most residents, both in distance and access. Ideally, the park is in an area with other development, so it’s highly visible and can add value to the neighborhood it joins.”
“At the same time, however, it’s important to avoid densely populated neighborhoods that might not enjoy the extra traffic and/or inevitable barking. The space should be large enough to accommodate separately fenced-in areas for different sized dogs, extra activity spaces and ample parking for visitors,” Fish said.
Always looking ahead, city officials say they look for a location with room to growing, aiming to build new parks in spaces that allow for future expansion as needed. Extra space also gives room to rotate the heavily used areas, so the grass isn’t worn away too quickly by happy pups. Most parks can be created in otherwise unusable floodplains, but due to above average fecal deposits, dog parks need to be safe from runoff into public waterways.
And perhaps one of the biggest factors is the most obvious: cost. Fish said the city often purchases land for future and unknown use, and many times has property donated by developers or families who want to see it kept in the natural state and/or put to good use.
“Each existing tract in the current inventory would need to be evaluated for all of these factors, as well as the work necessary to develop each into a usable space,” he said. “As any homeowner understands, costs of renovations sometimes outweigh the costs of new construction, especially when considering long-term sustainability. So new property must be evaluated as well to find the most financially-sound option for the long term. In short, creating a dog park is not as simple as putting up a fence.”
After careful evaluation of all available options and extensive discussion with appropriate experts, the City of Mansfield is considering 604 W. Broad Street as the location for the first off-leash dog park. The property has been owned by the city for several years, and is the former homestead of Ralph Man, one of the founders of Mansfield. Located just west of Historic Downtown Mansfield, the 10-acre tract is easily accessible and in a prime location near the city’s growing business and retail district. The property allows plenty of space for parking and multiple fenced areas, as well as considerable future expansion. One bonus, city officials say, is the land is already heavily wooded, saving considerable landscaping cost and offering pups and their owners amazing shade from the mature trees. The homestead will remain on site and continue to be maintained by the city as a historic landmark, but would stay fenced off from inquisitive pups.
The property also sits on Walnut Creek, so future expansions of the award-winning Walnut Creek Linear Trail could include the new dog park. The trail is already very popular for dog walkers, who would enjoy the new stop.
“We’re especially excited about this location,” said Mansfield Parks and Recreation Director Matt Young. “We feel this project will bring new life to the property and be an exciting way to keep a part of Mansfield’s history a part of its future.”
The dog park was budgeted as an $800,000 project in the current fiscal year through the half-cent sales tax dedicated to parks and recreation. Mansfield’s Parks and Recreation Department is unique in that it is primarily funded by the half-cent sales tax and not the city’s general fund. In other words, purchasing $100 in dog food would cost a total of $8.25 in sales tax. Of that tax, 50 cents goes to the parks and recreation system, including construction, operations, maintenance and more.
“Every half-cent adds up, and the department is able to provide award-winning parks and recreation options for our residents without affecting the property taxes,” Young said. “This funding was approved by Mansfield citizens in a public vote in 1992, and the budget is managed by the Mansfield Park Facilities Development Corporation, a group of seven volunteers appointed by City Council to help guide the department’s growth and operations.”
Now that the possible site has been chosen, the real work begins. Park planners are already working with designers to formulate preliminary concepts based on needs and budget. Most importantly, they want the park to match the goals of the community and the pet owners who would use it.
Anyone interested in providing input may attend a public meeting at 6:30 pm. on Tuesday, March 20. The meeting will be held at the Chris W. Burkett Service Center and include a presentation from designers and the opportunity for Q&A and idea submission. For residents who cannot attend, the meeting will be broadcast live on the Mansfield Parks and Recreation Facebook page. The city is also asking for feedback via an online survey, opening next week.
In addition, drawings will be on display at the Barks & Rec 5k and Dog Festival on Saturday, March 24 for visitors to preview concepts and offer input. Planners will combine all the feedback to make adjustments and additions as needed before finalizing the design taking the project to the MPFDC and City Council for consideration. Work on the project could move quickly, weather permitting, with a possible opening date in spring 2019.
Are you excited about the dog park? Here’s a quick recap of how to get involved:
Complete the online survey CLICK HERE
Attend the public input meeting
Tuesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m.
Chris W. Burkett Service Center, 620 S. Wisteria Street, Mansfield
Attend the Barks & Rec 5k & Festival
March 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Katherine Rose Memorial Park, 303 N. Walnut Creek Drive, Mansfield