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Former Gold Hill councilwoman files complaint against proposed dog park

A former Gold Hill city councilwoman is fighting the creation of a dog park near the Rogue River.

Christine Alford says she called the Department of Environmental Quality to lodge a complaint May 3, the day after the council voted to fund the final $2,300 for a $10,000 Bark Park at the Gold Hill Sports Park.

Alford, who says she had served on a surface water management committee in years past, says the dog park would not be a good mix for other uses at the park, including a planned splash pad and nearby ball fields and tennis courts.

"I don't believe DEQ would permit a new septic tank there and the dog park is in that same family, only a lot larger," Alford writes in an e-mail to the Mail Tribune.

Alford suggested the council solicit public comment and consider moving the park to Lampman Park, near another stretch of the river but closer to the freeway along Lampman Road. She says the public didn't get a chance to weigh in on the sports park location, as a map was presented the same night (March 7) the council voted to allow the dog park on a former softball field.

Organizers of the project, who began fundraising this spring after a survey showed residents wanted the city to build a dog park, say Alford's environmental concerns are unfounded.

Dog walkers already use the sports park and surrounding bike paths and dispose of waste in the "poop stations" provided. An additional station would be stationed at the Bark Park.

Construction is set to start May 23 and take about a week, with grand opening tentatively planned for May 28.

DEQ spokeswoman Jennifer Flynt, from the agency's Portland office, confirmed her agency had received a complaint on May 3 but that it had been confidential. The DEQ investigates all complaints, she says.

Councilwoman Margaret Dials calls the concerns unfounded and says the city is protective of its natural resources.

Dials says the designated dog park would not cause an increase in the number of dog owners using the park and that they had contributed to fundraising and cleanup of the field.

"There is an environmental concern with dogs, which is what led us to get poop stations some time ago. Being responsible and doing the right thing is really important to the city," Dials says.

"I think it's a shame that somebody wants to throw a monkey wrench in something that could be so positive for the town."

Sam Hefter, one of the park's coordinators, says "poop stations" at the park would allow for cleanup of dog poop better than on open trails along the river and that the project had been carefully planned.

"All we're doing is putting a fence around some grass. I don't know what else to say about it," Hefter says.

"Other than it's going to happen on May 23."

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.