University student’s senior project lobbies for dog park

CEDAR CITY — After more than a year of silence, Cedar City dog owners are speaking up, thanks to a Southern Utah University senior who chose to campaign for a dog park as part of her senior project.

Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News
Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News

Since 2011, dog owners in Cedar City have been lobbying for a dog park, but after coming up against what some have called repeated roadblocks from the City Council, they gave up the fight and pursued other ventures beneficial to dog owners.

A petition created on change.org was launched in November asking for signatures that SUU senior communication student Courtney Sullivan may to present to the City Council showing the community’s support for the park. As of Thursday, the petition has received 434 of 500 signatures needed to complete the petition.

Sullivan is a dog owner and a dog lover herself. As part of her graduation requirements, she needs to fulfill an edge – education designed to give experience – project and chose one inspired by her love for her dogs.

For some time now, Sullivan said, she and her two dogs, Jackson, a malamute/husky mix, and Taco, a Chihuahua, have been participating with a Facebook group called Dog Play Dates of Cedar City.

The group currently has just under 200 members. Many of the members join in long-standing play dates Saturdays at noon at a community church on 400 North that donates space to them.

The deep desire and need for a dog park in Cedar City are often topics of conversation at the play dates, Sullivan said. Because she chose to complete an edge project that would have an impact on the community, it seemed like the perfect fit.

Timing played a role in the direction of her project as well, she said.

“There’s a new council coming in,” Sullivan said, noting a general consensus that the shift in dynamics could play in favor of those seeking a dog park since some who previously voted “no” will soon no longer hold a seat.

Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News
Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News

Along with the petition, Sullivan has created a Facebook page called Cedar City Dog Park Campaign for interested parties and supporters to congregate and share thoughts and ideas or find information about how to support the project.                               

As a way of raising funds to help build the park so the city won’t have to pull money from taxpayer coffers, Sullivan said, she created a GoFundMe account under the same name as the change.org petition.

A lot of the research Sullivan did to help lay the groundwork for her project included talking to Diane Gil, co-founder of Cedar City-based nonprofit Friends of Festival Country K-9s.

The nonprofit was founded as a way for Gil and others, who began lobbying for a dog park in 2011, to meet the funding needs of their request.

“We formed a 501(c)(3) in order to get grants so we could help build a dog park for the city,” Gil said, “(but) 3 out of 5 of the council members were against it.”

The city offered a multitude of reasons for its denial of the park, including lack of funding, maintenance concerns, liability issues and insufficient land to build on, Gil said.

Gil called cities across the state who have dog parks within their communities, she said, and found that liability was not a concern. Presenting the council with the information she uncovered did little to dissuade their position, she said.

“Then the liability was off the table,” Gil said, “but it was still that the land, the locations that we … recommended were too valuable.”

In private meetings with Gil and Cedar City Manager Rick Holman, Councilman John Black said he offered an alternative to their location request.

The piece of land Gill suggested at the recommendation of others was not stable enough to support any long-term building on the property due to the makeup of the ground underneath it, Black said.  

“This is an area where the formation up there is called caliche,” Black said. “It’s concrete-like rock; when it gets wet, it disintegrates, settles and moves.”

Given the nature of the land in question, he said, it wouldn’t be economically feasible to build restrooms, parking areas or any other structures needed to facilitate the use of the park because there would be no long-term viability to the construction.

Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News
Dogs play at Dog Play Dates of Cedar City meetup group, City 4th 14th Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar City, Utah, fall 2015 | Photo by Mandy Robinson courtesy of Courtney Sullivan, St. George News

There is a stretch of unused land at Bicentennial Park between the ballfields and the skate park, Black said, that could potentially work if the park is built without grass.

Without the funding to put in an irrigation system, he said, the park would have to be temporarily created with a native landscape design instead of grass, but the idea was ill-received.

“But what we would have — we would have restrooms close that are associated with the ballpark,” Black said. “We would have parking that’s already there; and we’d have an area that we could fence and make two cells; and within each one of those cells we could bring in dirt and boulders that they would like to run and jump and play on – and kind of make that a temporary situation.”

Gil’s group told him they are not interested in following through with a temporary park, Black said, because it would damage their grant-writing funding opportunities. In order to file for grants, he said, they told him the park would need to be in a permanent location that would offer space to grow as they build agility courses and event areas where shows and competitions could be held.

Since Gil’s group and the City Council were unable to come to an agreement, Gil said, she set aside a piece of her personal property that is now fenced in and used primarily for dog events and training opportunities — some of which are free and open to the public.

The city did supply recreation, arts and parks tax, or RAP tax, funding to purchase agility equipment for community use, Gil said. That equipment is maintained on her property until a more suitable environment is made available to the public.

Where the dog park winds up being built in the end is of little consequence, Sullivan said. There are plenty of places around Cedar City that could work, she said, even if it has to be close to Three Peaks somewhere.

“I’m hoping that we can come to an agreement, at least somewhere,” Sullivan said. “I mean, Cedar’s a growing place. It won’t hurt to try again.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Posted in Local, NewsTagged , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply