Representatives of a neighborhood group opposed to current renovation plans that exclude a dog run at Bywater's Mickey Markey Park spoke tonight at the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission (NORDC) monthly meeting. Speaking on behalf of the group, Lexie Montgomery presented a petition with 400 signatures supporting an off-leash dog area at the park.
"Many of these residents are parents as well as dog owners," Montgomery said. "For some residents having an off-leash dog area contributed to their buying a house in the neighborhood."
A portion of the park has been used as a popular, though unsanctioned, off-leash dog area for a number of years. When the group, the Trust for Public Land, approached the Bywater Neighborhood Association (BNA) with a proposal to renovate the park with private dollars (and to possibly include a dog park in the design), the neighborhood association took the position that the park "is for people and should be returned to its lawful and intended use," a Nov. 2011 letter from the BNA board shows. NORDC ultimately approved a design without an off-leash dog area.
"Thus we urge you to also prepare a design alternative that does not have space designated to off-leash dogs," the letter reads.
A BNA survey found dog droppings was the number one reason people sometimes avoided the park, with 105 of 293 respondents citing it. But 86 percent (254) of overall respondents said they wanted a "dog play area" in the park (a number that, by necessity, must include even some of the above-referenced droppings-averse respondents.) And 45 percent of them rated it as a "very important" feature.
“I’d like to request that NORDC engages the community one more time," said Rhonda Findley, who lives near the park, at tonight's meeting. “I would respectfully ask all of you to respect that request and engage that community.”
Mickey Markey Park renovations were originally set to begin on Feb. 25, has been pushed back. Read the Lens' coverage of the dog park debate here.
The petition is available here.