MOORHEAD — Karl Stumo thinks a proposed dog park in the River Oaks Park in south Moorhead along the Red River is a good idea.
"The more opportunities you can give for families and kids the better," said Stumo, who lives a stone's throw away from the entrance to the park.
He calls himself a "pro-change" person as does his wife, Nicole. "There's only an upside to change is how we see it," he said.
Stumo, who lives at 4045 S. Rivershore Drive, attended a city-sponsored informational meeting about the proposed dog park at River Oaks and found some of the concerns from others "fairly parochial."
Most of the complaints from the neighbors who live just south of 40th Avenue were concerns about the increased traffic.
But as Stumo sat outside with his wife on their patio one night this past week, he said there was already a lot of traffic on the street that runs by the mostly undeveloped park.
The park stretches east and west through a point of land with the river on both sides as it makes a sharp bend and then circles back around.
Stumo also noted the amount of bikers and walkers along a path that runs in their backyard. The dog park, he said, could add another amenity to those residents and others in south Moorhead.
The couple has a rescue dog, Thor, but Stumo said they probably wouldn't take him over there because he doesn't get along too well with others.
Not everyone in the neighborhood agrees with Stumo about locating the park there. City Parks and Recreation Director Holly Heitkamp said a survey of neighbors within a 350-foot radius to the park showed 17 were opposed with eight in support.
"We had a lot of negative comments," Heitkamp said. She also said most neighbors in the written survey or through phone calls emphasized concerns about increased traffic the dog park would bring.
That led the Moorhead City Council in its meeting Monday, June 24, to pause approving the park as a location for the facility. Instead they agreed almost unanimously at the end of a 40-minute discussion to continue looking at the River Oaks site as the No. 1 location, but to do additional followup work with the neighbors to address their concerns as well as get more feedback from a wider area of residents.
Heitkamp and Public Works Director Steve Moore presented other options to the council, too.
They considered locating the facility at Riverfront Park near downtown or constructing it in the developing Southside Regional Park.
The city council had concerns, however, that the Riverfront Park location wasn't on the south side of town and that the Southside Regional Park location would take a long time to develop. Members also expressed concern that a dog facility wasn't in the master plan for the park.
The city currently has only one dog park, basically a smaller fenced-in area, along 15th Avenue North by U.S. Highway 75, which Moore said is "used infrequently."
Demand is certainly there as it's on the top of the "want list" for Moorhead residents, not only according to citywide surveys, but also according to Mayor Johnathan Judd and other council members who interacted with residents while door-knocking during election season.
Judd said he would like to see it be a "destination dog park."
Moore also wants "something special" and already has plans to donate a special attraction to the facility, although he didn't say what it would be.
One idea discussed that could make it out of the ordinary that was brought up at the council meeting was having a dog washing station — with a charge.
That could also be used to help pay for maintenance of the park, Moore said in an interview after the meeting.
Moore said the River Oaks site has many existing benefits including mature trees, existing grass, available parking and water available in close proximity. It was a "clear winner" in the categories for an appropriate place for such a facility out of the three options.
It appeared that most of the council members favored that location, especially because it was in the growing south side.
City Councilwoman Deb White said there is "overwhelming support" from residents for the park. She didn't favor the Riverfront Park, noting a Fargo dog park is available just across the river.
Councilman Steve Gehrtz suggested another possible site would be near the new water tower that is being built on the southeast side of the city. However, Moore again said it would take a longer time to develop that site with no amenities available there at this time.
As an alternative, Gehrtz wondered if more evergreens could be added to shield the River Oaks site from neighbors or possibly moving it farther away from the nearby homes.
City Manager Chris Volkers said $25,000 is approved in this year's capital improvement budget for the park and $40,000 set aside in the city park amenities fund available to jumpstart the project or to be used as matching funds for a grant.
Also the dog park is listed in the Moorhead Community Fund as an identified project for fundraising.