Many members of the Coliseum Square Association voiced favor Monday night for a proposed gated dog run in Annunciation Square, though some still question the safety and cleanliness of allowing dogs to run freely so close to children.
Officials from the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission are looking into a space in Annunciation Square to put a free off-leash area for Uptown dogs. The proposed dog run will be bounded by Annunciation, Race and Orange streets and feature a double fence that requires dog owners to unlock two gates before entering or exiting the park. The run will have separate areas for small and large dogs, and measure about 300 linear feet along Annunciation Street and about 100 feet down each side of the block, according to a map sketched by city officials.
City officials met with Lower Garden District neighbors at Annunciation Square last week – to staunch disapproval from a majority there, who said it’s too close to children visiting the park from St. Michael Special School and Trinity Episcopal School, though they still agree that a dog park is needed in the general area.
Julie Simpson, president of the Coliseum Square Association, used part of that organization’s Monday meeting to gauge the proposal’s popularity within the association. Most of the residents at CSA were in favor of the park, though some had concerns about the safety and cleanliness.
Several CSA members brought up the Wisner Dog Run as an example of how Annunciation’s possible park could look. Wisner’s facility – the first free, official place for dogs to play without a leash in city limits – has a maze of fencing between the existing softball field, basketball courts and playgrounds that allow pets room to romp.
Lois Landry, CSA member, said the fenced-in facility would give people an official place to run their dogs, thus leaving the athletic fields for sports leagues and children.
“The dogs are in their own place,” Landry said. “We need a dog park, though it’s important to see actual design plans before we approve it.”
Kathy Falwell and Jason Craft both spoke against the dog park. Both live directly across from the proposed location and said the park is largely used by young people and families, as well as people who use the athletic fields to run their dogs off-leash.
Falwell countered that having a fenced-in park won’t stop people from using athlete fields off-leash, as exemplified by Wisner Park. Though there’s a facility meant to run dogs, it’s not always used; Falwell is concerned that if dogs are officially invited to the park, more people will start using the athletic fields instead of the dog run.
“The issue is that no one is enforcing the leash law,” Falwell said. “Everybody assumes having a gate will make people behave, but that’s not what’s happening.”
Catherine Love, CSA member and veterinarian, said creating room for people to run active dogs legally would cut down on illegal off-leash activity in the park. Since the runs would come with rules, the community must make those rules enforceable by self-policing their dogs and others.
“We set a precedent that it’s policeable, and if you don’t follow the rules there are consequences,” Love said.
Joel Dondis, CSA board member, said the best way to move forward is to talk with Wisner neighbors and see what works and doesn’t work about the dog run.
“The question is, how can it coexist?” Dondis said.
[Correction: This article has been updated to correct a typographical area regarding the size of the area to be used for the dog park in Annunciation Square.]