- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Valley dog owners should soon have a safe place in west Jackson to allow their furry four-legged friends to run free.

The Jackson Town Council agreed at a meeting Monday to get the process started to create a dog park at Powderhorn Park.

The area that has been proposed to be reserved for canines is smaller than advocates had hoped - just a half acre at this point - but many supporters still expressed gratitude at the meeting.

“We’ll see what we can do in the future,” Sandra Cousins told the council, “but for right now I’m very happy.”

Cousins had been involved with the previous dog park, which had a 1.3-acre play area on Scott Lane. It was founded and operated by the nonprofit PAWS of Jackson Hole but was shut down last May to make way for a long-planned affordable housing development.

The previous park was named Sophie’s Place, after the dog of Cousins’ sister, Kristen Ardinger Karns. Karns and her dog were killed in a drunk-driving accident weeks before the last dog park opened in 2010.

“To me and my family it’s obviously a very sensitive topic,” Cousins told the council Monday, “but it’s something we truly believe in.”

Others dog park supporters at the meeting referred to canine-wildlife encounters that have occurred in recent weeks in dog-walking hot spots. Some run-ins resulted in injuries to dogs or wildlife. In one incident in early December a mule deer fawn had to be euthanized because of injuries sustained after being chased into a fence by an uncontrolled dog.

“It once again proves the point that this town desperately needs a park,” PAWS of Jackson Hole Board President Laurel Wyckoff said to the council at the meeting.

The council unanimously voted to have staff begin working with the nonprofit to plan the park, which will be enclosed by a fence and is proposed to have two entrances, one on Alpine Lane and another on Smith Lane. The decision drew applause from the audience at the council meeting.

Initial plans for the park show a large play area as well as a smaller fenced-off play area, all between the Powderhorn Park ball field and the playground and bathrooms to the east.

Development of the park is expected to cost about $100,000, according to town staff reports.

PAWS still has to draft a memorandum of understanding with the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department that would oversee the maintenance of the park.

The nonprofit is open to covering much of the development costs and plans to split maintenance duties with Parks and Recreation, although the organization still needs to work through the details with the agency, PAWS Executive Director Amy Romaine said.

It is unlikely that the park will open this winter, as there are still too many details to work through and much of the installation work would be difficult in winter weather, she said.

“Even trying to get fencing in frozen ground is nearly impossible,” Romaine said Tuesday.

The decision by the council comes on the heels of a massive push by PAWS and other supporters to get a new dog park established in the town and county’s public park system. More than 2,000 people signed petitions in support of the effort. PAWS even rallied several dog owners to bring their pets to Town Hall on Monday when councilors were due to discuss the issue. At times barks and howls could be heard outside the council chambers.

Other locations for a dog park had been considered, including Karns Meadow and the tennis courts at the Teton County Fairgrounds, but town councilors had problems with those proposals.

While dog-park advocates were happy with Monday’s decision, some still plan to push the town and county to find more space for canines in the public park system, Romaine said.

Some asked at the meeting whether the ball field at Powderhorn Park could be used during the winter as an expansion of the dog park. Steve Ashworth, Parks and Recreation director, said the field is used as an ice rink, but he did say staff will look at expanding the dog play area closer to the playground at the park.


Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, https://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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