The Kingwood Service Association (KSA) Parks Committee decided to evaluate two proposals for the creation of a dog park within Kingwood at its July 6 meeting. The evaluation will determine initial and ongoing costs and the legal requirements for two locations that appear viable.
The decision to consider a community dog park is the result of a resident’s request to build a dog park to fill a void soon to be created by the closing of a private dog park on Russell Palmer Road.
The results of a preliminary review of 10 possible locations was presented by Kings Point representative Bob Rehak.
During June, Rehak doggedly pursued the options. He spoke with appropriate city and Harris County departments, flood control district officials, and finally, after many other calls, discussed the options with the Houston city parks director.
“All of the organizations we were talking to required support of the Forest Cove property owners before they would do anything,” Rehak said. He explained that the option was contingent on the approval of the Forest Cove Homeowners Association (HOA).
Rehak, at a recent meeting, suggested KSA and Forest Cove jointly build a dog park in the Forest Cove location under a joint-use arrangement. Forest Cove would provide the land in the flood-prone area. KSA would provide the funding, coordinate with the city and flood control district, manage the construction and bear the costs to operate the park for both Forest Cove and Kingwood residents.
“To make a long story short, they do not support a dog park,” Rehak said. He explained any Forest Cove option is definitely not welcome there. He described the homeowners’ concern for increased traffic by Kingwood residents into and out of Forest Cove. In addition, he noted their explanation that Forest Cove yards are large, so they don’t need a dog park.
Rehak then described the remaining options. One, located on available unused land in River Grove Park, had been suggested in May. A new option, located in East End Park, would use designated “off-leash hours” to manage and control dogs allowed off leash within a part of the park during specified hours, much as they do in New York City’s Central Park.
“I used the River Grove option details that were envisioned last time we looked at this in 2006,” Rehak said. He pointed out several advantages over other options: designated areas for both large and small dogs; the ability to build fencing inside the tree line for aesthetic reasons; the ease of establishing a good walking path through the facility; and areas that lend themselves to be designated for agility exercise and adoption events near available parking. He highlighted adequate general parking along with nearby running water and restrooms were already in place.
Regarding the new idea for “off-leash hours” in East End Park, Rehak said, “I learned that in New York City they have “off-leash parks” in Central Park. They aren’t allowed everywhere in the park, but in most places they can be off leash and everybody knows that you are going to have dogs off leash. If you are afraid of dogs, you just don’t go during those hours. New York’s Central Park off-leash hours are every day from 6-9 a.m. in the morning and from 9 p.m.-1 a.m. in the night.”
Rehak called the Houston city parks director about the possibility of that kind of policy in Houston.
“She said it is a growing trend in America. Here in Texas, Austin has 12 off-leash areas, some fenced, some not. College Station has one off-leash area with some fencing. So does Kerrville, so there are places like that popping up,” Rehak said. He also described a pilot program in Canmore, Alberta, Canada currently underway, which is almost concluded. He talked to officials there who said it was working well with no issues, dog bites or lost dog incidents.
The question of fencing was raised. Some parks use it and some do not, including New York’s Central Park. East End Park Steward Maryanne Fortson pointed out that there is significant wildlife passing through East End, including deer and hogs, that probably were not a distractive issue to for the dogs in Central Park.
Rehak pointed out that the off-leash option is dependent on being legally possible by a Houston ordinance or by a specific exception made to existing Houston leash laws. A fence around a designated area in East End Park might satisfy the requirement within the existing law.
The committee asked Rehak to create specific proposals, including legal considerations and costs for each option. He will present them in August. Based on that information and feedback from KSA community associations, a motion will be voted on to request approval of a preferred option. If one is approved, it will be submitted to the KSA Board of Directors for consideration at its next quarterly meeting Sept. 21. Cost estimates for the project will be included in the Parks 2018 budget.
The next KSA Parks meeting will be Thursday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room, 2030 Shadow Rock Dr. The public is invited to attend.
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