The City of Canby will host an open house later this month to discuss plans and collect input for a new dog park, an amenity that has long been at or near the top of the most-desired community projects for residents and leaders, but which has drawn some opposition over its cost and proposed location on North Territorial Road.
The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, September 28, in the council chambers of the Canby Civic Center, located at 222 Northeast 2nd Avenue. It will include an overview of the design and concept plan, and attendees will have the opportunity to provide comment and input on the proposal.
The Canby Dog Park was the subject of intense community interest about a decade ago, when the city established a citizen advisory committee to conduct research, identify potential sites and advise the council on design and amenities.
The grassroots effort included a petition with more than 500 signatures in favor of a fenced, off-leash dog park in Canby, a series of “Yappy Hour” events hosted locally in support of the project, and a Friends of the Canby Dog Park Facebook page that was active until at least October 2020.
Over the course of several years starting in 2011, proponents reviewed several proposed sites, ultimately settling on a six-acre former residential property in the 1500 block of Northeast Territorial Road, which the city purchased in 2008 for future expansion of the nearby wastewater treatment facility and park development.
An interdepartmental agreement was signed in August 2012 between the city’s public works and parks departments to exchange land for the development of the dog park at that location.
The project was eventually shelved in 2015 due to lack of funding — especially for maintenance, which caused city leaders to put a temporary halt on the development of any new park amenities.
And, though the property remains undeveloped, it has begun to see some limited use as a sort of informal dog park anyway, with a gravel parking area and receptacles for trash and dog waste.
Community interest in the project appears to remain high. Consultants contracted by the city last year to update its park master plan identified a dog park or off-leash area as the second-most desired new amenity in Canby after a community center with sports fields.
The consultant also found that more 55% of households in Canby own a dog, and their assessment suggested developing a permanent, off-least=h dog park was the second most important need for the community’s parks system after a connected trail system.
But opposition to the location has grown in recent months, including among the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, with opponents citing concerns about cost, usability, viability and safety.
The planned access road just off Territorial Road is much busier now than it was in 2012, with it also serving the city’s shops and wastewater treatment facility along with the new Canby Fire District north side medical station.
And, unusually, though the city owns the property, at least four-fifths of the proposed site lie outside of the city’s urban growth boundary, creating the need to work with Clackamas County officials and complicating the development process with additional red tape.
The parks advisory board has expressed its preference for other sites, including a city-owned property on Northwest 3rd Avenue commonly known as the Honda Pits, a former gravel quarry and landfill until 1960. The city acquired the 14-acre property 33 years later with plans to develop it for park space.
The Canby Skate Park was built on the property’s north side 15 years ago.
At the Canby City Council’s most recent meeting on September 7, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Chair Barry Johnson was critical of what he characterized as a failure to vet other locations, including the Honda Pits or Molalla River State Park — which currently boasts an unfenced off-leash area for dogs.
“I think it would be wise to vet any other locations to see if they would come under at a lower rate or a better cost,” Johnson said. “You need to do cost comparison on projects like this.”
Johnson said he is not opposed to a dog park in general, something he has also stressed in the past.
“I just think we need to make sure we’re not giving the dog park a break,” he said. “We seem to be taking on extra costs to fit the dog park in at this location, and we’re going to eat that cost.”
The council budgeted $900,000 for the project, which would be much more than other new parks amenities in the city’s recent history, such as the aforementioned skate park, which was built for $360,000 in 2008, and the new splash pad at Maple Street Park, which came at a cost of about $475,000 two years ago.
But proponents say that figure contains contingencies and other elements that are not likely to be included in the final design, meaning the actual cost of the project would come in far under the budgeted amount.
“What we have before us is basically the fully loaded, Tesla version of this park,” Councilor Sarah Spoon said on September 7. “But we … almost certainly will not build everything priced out in that budget.”
For example, the current design of the project includes a perimeter sidewalk with an anticipated price tag of $144,000, something Spoon said she does not believe the project needs.
“Dogs don’t use sidewalks in the summer,” she said. “It gets too hot, and it would be outside the fence, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
Removing that item would put the cost of the project at around $500,000, not including contingencies, Spoon said.
Canby resident Greg Perez was sharply critical of the project’s cost and the process.
“This whole thing is preposterous,” he said. “The idea of spending $700,000, $900,000 dollars, on up to $1 million is inconceivable. People walk their dogs in every subdivision of the community. Dog owners venture to Molalla State Park where they let their dogs run loose.
“We have the logging trail for walking, miles and miles, and in the future, there will be more added on. As councilors, your fiduciary responsibility is to the entire community as a whole, not just a friendly group that you are patronizing.”
Perez said more should be invested in amenities for the town’s youth and families, including a community center and athletic fields.
Johnson and nearby resident Mary Doak also expressed concerns about the traffic on Territorial Road.
“It’s horrendous, and every time they build a new house, the traffic increases,” Doak said. “I just don’t see how it’s going to work. There’s too much traffic both on the utility road and Territorial already, before you put this in. I’m afraid we’re heading into a traffic disaster on Territorial Road.”
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