Friday, November 5, 2010

Susan Barked (and wagged her tail)

As noted previously, my Susan attended an open house to check out the final draft of the St. Paul Parks & Rec's plan for the future. She came back home, told me all about it and sent in her feedback. What a good girl!

Dear Parks & Rec,

I had the pleasure of attending the open house at Hillcrest last Wednesday for the Parks & Rec Plan. I appreciate the low key atmosphere you created to share the plan and provide opportunities for discussion. I look forward to seeing it move forward as we better address the changing needs for our Parks & Rec system.

A robust,freely accessible parks and rec program is the sign of a healthy, vibrant urban community. My family includes two adults, two teenage boys and an active dog and we are heavy users of the metro parks and rec centers.

We are fortunate to live right near Aldine Park. Over the 14 years we have lived here, we have visited the tiny park several times a day on our dog walks, to play on the playground (when my boys were younger), to throw frisbees and baseballs, join pick-up softball, skate and even do school projects (moon observations). I believe having open spaces in urban neighborhoods is essential and this park played a key role in why we bought a house where we did. I was pleased to see that park location "gaps" have been identified in the Parks & Rec Plan and that new parks will be added so everyone has easy access to a neighborhood park.

My family also uses the Jimmy Lee rec center for swimming, walking on the indoor track and the fitness center. We love the improvements. We hope the fields are cleaned up and reopened to serve the neighborhood soon.

I love the move to make our city parks more natural. Urbanites need a connection to nature. Prairie plantings, rain gardens and other sustainable practices are good for the world.

I do not support public fields like Dunning getting turned over to private managers if this means fences, advertising and limited availability. Public parks should be readily available to everyone. We need more sandlots for kids and casual groups not shiny, groomed fields reserved for the few. OK, shiny and groomed for everyone would be my first choice.

I support adding more dog parks - both smaller social areas and larger areas where people and dogs off-leash can roam and be out in nature. Different-size dog areas serve different purposes and I hope that planners understand the need to balance these. Merely adding a little fenced yard to a park like Newell to fill the "add a dog park quota" would be a shame. I hope to see a large area a la Battle Creek Dog Park included in the plans along the river down by Hidden Falls and Crosby Farm. A Newell dog park would be sweet too, of course. 

As a new dog owner and new to off -leash dog parks, I was quite surprised to discover that dog parks are great social gathering places for people too. The amount of community you find for yourself while your dog rips around is amazing. Our twice-weekly outings to Battle Creek or Arkwright have become a pleasant social part of our week. I meet and talk with diverse types of folks that I would never meet in my normal nose-to-the-ground routine. In this highly divided, classist world we live in, dogs are an amazing social icebreaker and glue.

And this community makes for good stewardship of the land. Dog people police each other - subtly and directly - to clean-up, learn/practice dog park etiquette and support each other to socialize the dogs (and people). You couldn't ask for a better model of how a diverse bunch of citizens can use a public area in heavy concentrations (and there is a LOT of traffic) with very little oversight.

I would be interested in being involved in the parks planning process -- perhaps for the riverfront, if you are looking for someone who loves cross-country skiing, hiking, dog parks, playgrounds, picnicking, biking and just getting out in nature. I am intrigued by all the puzzle pieces that the multiple perspectives and interests bring to the table. I applaud all your efforts for coming up with lots of possible solutions!

Bravo, Parks & Rec!


Good girl! What a good girl! Susan gets a treat!
credit and recipe Truffle Tarts

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