There’s hope on the horizon for downtown Kansas City residents who struggle to find convenient and safe green spaces for their dogs to exercise and play.
The Kansas City parks department has raised the money for a 1.5-acre off-leash dog area at the north end of West Terrace Park, on the west bluffs near Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. And a separate fundraising effort is underway to create another more modest off-leash area at Fifth and Locust streets in the River Market.
“It’s creating a system of dog parks to serve the downtown neighborhoods,” said Jimmi Lossing, senior landscape architect with the parks department, who is working on the West Terrace Park project.
Bids go out early next year and construction should begin in the spring on that dog park, which will include fencing, a curved path, stone staircase, new trees, benches and picnic tables and possibly some decorative pavilions. It should open later in the year, once the new grass is well established.
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The basic dog park improvements will be paid for with $200,000 in capital improvement sales tax revenue, plus $180,000 from the William T. Kemper Foundation. Attractive shaded canopies are expected to cost about $170,000 more, and Lossing said the department is working to identify funding for those.
This will be the third off-leash area in a Kansas City park, building on the popularity of dog areas in Penn Valley Park and Swope Park. The Kansas City parks department also partnered with North Kansas City on another well-used park at Northeast 32nd and Swift avenues in North Kansas City.
Because this dog park will be relatively limited in size, Lossing said the department is exploring the idea of having dog owners register for access.
“There’s a potential for intense use,” Lossing said, noting that most downtown residents don’t have backyards and may use this area regularly, day and night, to exercise their pets. The department wants to be able to notify regular users about when the park might be closed for maintenance and renovations. Details are still being worked out, and no decisions have been made.
A less expensive proposal is in the works for a vacant piece of ground, a little less than an acre, owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation, at Fifth and Locust just west of Missouri 9.
MoDOT isn’t using the land and has made it available, said Mark Rowlands, director of the downtown and River Market community improvement districts.
Advocates have launched a grassroots crowdfunding campaign to install fencing, trash cans and possibly picnic tables. Information is at donate.neighbor.ly/projects/rivermarket-off-leash-area.
Rowlands said more and more pet owners are moving to the River Market and are on the hunt for safe, accessible places to walk their dogs. He said they are thrilled about the West Terrace Park plan, but the River Market site is across the street from one of the largest residential buildings, Cold Storage Lofts. It is already used informally by pet owners, so Rowlands said it would be nice to have some amenities there. Once the park gets going, the River Market Community Improvement District would keep it clean and mowed.
Some River Market businesses have already pledged to contribute $15,000 to construction, but Rowlands said they need to raise an additional $15,000. Advocates have just started promoting the crowdfunding website, and more than $800 has already been donated.
The group hopes to reach its goal by February, Rowlands said. If it is successful, the park could open by summer.