On June 6, before talk of the city ordinance that bans dogs from parks had reached fever pitch, Councilmember Craig Newton brought up the idea of turning an unsightly city-owned parcel into a fenced, “off-leash” dog park.
Now, he’s done more homework about the idea and has submitted a memo to the Mayor and Council for discussion at Monday’s work-policy meeting.
According to his memo, Newton sees the benefits for dogs, who would get to socialize and exercise, and for owners, who would be able to stand watch over their pets and not be dragged around on walks—a particular benefit for elderly or disabled citizens in his eyes.
Perhaps more to the point, he also sees the benefit of mitigating the anger of pet owners over the law. “Their question is, 'What is the alternative? What are we supposed to do if we can’t have dogs here?' I think that this could be our answer,” said Newton.
He is also pleased that the solution would provide a practical use for a property that just looks bad.
The property, off Mitchell Road near the Norcross Co-operative Ministry, is in bad shape after the last user did not fully clean up, according to Newton. The site was first used as a compost site, then as a construction landfill. Though some study has already been done on the space, a full environmental study has not been conducted—and it would likely need to be, says Newton.
Either way, he wants to see the council address the parcel. “It is pretty bad when we’re citing people and we’ve got a huge mess ourselves,” he said. He said that one goal for the area, which could soon be annexed into the city limits if the residents vote in favor, is to increase property values.
One complaint is that the parcel is across Buford Highway, requiring some residents inside the city limits to cross the busy thoroughfare or drive. “I’m not going over there—I think the majority of people won’t either,” said resident Marilyn Meacham.
She says an off-leash park would be well suited for her, since she has a rambunctious dog that would like to play freely, but that the location is not reasonable.
“No matter on which side of Buford Highway you are on, it is going to be inconvenient for someone,” said Newton in response to that complaint. “Defining the ideal place for every citizen would be difficult.”