Representatives of a neighborhood group opposed to renovation plans that exclude a dog run at Bywater's Mickey Markey Park last week presented the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission (NORDC) with a 400-signature petition supporting an off-leash dog area at the park.
"Many of these residents are parents as well as dog owners," said Lexie Montgomery at NORDC's March 5 meeting. "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 years. When the nonprofit 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 Markey Park "is for people and should be returned to its lawful and intended use," a Nov. 2011 letter from the BNA board shows. "Thus we urge you to also prepare a design alternative that does not have space designated to off-leash dogs," the letter reads. NORDC ultimately approved a design without an off-leash dog area.
A BNA survey found dog droppings was the No. 1 reason people sometimes avoid 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 must include even some of the droppings-averse respondents). And 45 percent of them rated it as a "very important" feature.
"I'd like to request that NORDC engage the community one more time," said Rhonda Findley, who lives near the park. "I would respectfully ask all of you to respect that request and engage that community."
— Charles Maldonado