A new off-leash dog park in east Casper is one step closer to becoming a reality after the City Council tentatively greenlighted a design for the park during its Tuesday night work session.
After implementing stricter leash laws last year, the council agreed to create a new off-leash dog park so pet owners would have more opportunities to allow their dogs to legally roam. Council members wanted to give pet owners something back after taking something away, then-Mayor Charlie Powell told the Star-Tribune in April.
Casper currently has three off-leash dog parks: Morad Park, Lake McKenzie Dog Park and Dylan’s Park near the Tate Pumphouse.
The new park will be comprised of about 1 acre of fenced land that will make up the “off-leash” portion of the park. A pond sits in the middle of the property and the fenced part includes a portion of the pond, so dogs will have some access to the water.
This leaves about 8 acres of land that wouldn’t be fenced in but would still be part of the park and could be built upon in the future, Casper Parks and Recreation Director Tim Cortez explained.
The roughly 9-acre stretch of land behind the Rocky Mountain Oncology Center that will become the dog park was set aside in 2005, initially as part of the McMurry Business Park development. That project was designated as a “Planned Urban Development,” meaning essentially that it would be a mixed-use project. Such developments are required to save a portion of land for outdoor recreational use. The land’s owner, Eastgate Ranch LLC, never developed the property and so agreed to transfer ownership to the city last year.
The council has gone back and forth on how involved the dog park should be. When the property was designated as a planned urban development, the developer set aside $100,000 for a park. Members of council have disagreed on how much more, if anything, they would be willing to put into the project.
When the issue of the park first came up, the most expensive option was estimated to cost around $600,000. Council members have since asked for more conservative design options that would keep expenses around the $100,000 already available for the park.
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The final design council tentatively approved Tuesday includes the “bare minimum” elements, according to Cortez. In addition to the fencing, the city will need to install water fountains in the pond, to prevent stagnation and the formation of potentially harmful algae.
Other than the water fountains and the fencing, however, the park will be mostly bare. In the future the council may opt to add a concrete pathway.
Mayor Steve Freel suggested spending the allotted $100,000 first and then deciding to add to it after the basic elements are built. Ultimately the council approved spending an additional $8,500, bringing the park’s total cost to $108,500.
A few members of council have been reluctant to spend on the new park, given several expensive city projects coming down the pike.
Councilman Steve Cathey raised the concern at a work session in November.
“We as a council need to start looking at where we need to be focusing our money with limited resources,” he said.
At the time, the park’s design was more involved and as such more expensive. Under the previously proposed design, the annual maintenance costs for the park alone would have been more than $40,000. With the new design Cortez presented to the council Tuesday, annual maintenance costs are around $8,000.
While the current park’s design is a drop in the bucket compared to upcoming city projects, the city does have a number of expensive projects either being considered or already underway.
The city still needs to secure funding for the final portion of the rehabilitation of Midwest Avenue. The first phase of that three-part construction wrapped up this fall, and the second phase is fully funded, so the city has some time to find the money for the final phase. It will cost about $2 million to finish the project, and city staff are hoping federal grant money will pay for the remaining work.
The city could also begin building a new police headquarters and fire station within the next few years. Cost estimates to build the two new facilities are upward of $60 million, but the council hasn’t made any official decisions about those projects yet.
Renovations to City Hall are also expected to begin in coming months. That project is expected to cost $3 million and will include safety and accessibility updates to the building. Construction won’t begin until summer, but the city is expecting to bid out the interior design contract in early February.
Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites