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Doggy park elicits howls

The park in Historic Kenwood under Interstate 275 would cost so much because the land owned by the Department of Transportation needs to be fenced and equipped with benches and parking.

DIRK SHADD | Times

The park in Historic Kenwood under Interstate 275 would cost so much because the land owned by the Department of Transportation needs to be fenced and equipped with benches and parking.

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council could take the first step toward turning a vacant acre under Interstate 275 into a vibrant, community dog park today.

But the $171,284 price tag — nearly six times the usual cost — has one council member howling.

In these tough economic times, "that's too much for a dog park," said council member Wengay Newton. "I'm not against dog parks. I'm against building monuments to yourself. That's what's happening there."

The park is the brainchild of council member Jeff Danner, who has been trying for nearly three years to turn the idea into reality. He plans to ask the council today to set aside funding.

"This one will probably be the most centrally located we've got, and it takes an unsightly field next to the interstate that's been a place for homeless people and illegal dumping," Danner said. "Now, we have a chance to clean it up."

A majority of council members said at a committee meeting last week that they would support the park. Newton and Council member Bill Dudley opposed the project, citing the cost and the city's ongoing financial woes. Most of the city's five dog parks have cost about $30,000.

The park would be in Historic Kenwood under Interstate 275 at 20th Street N between Fifth and Fourth avenues. It will cost so much because the stretch of land, owned by the Department of Transportation, needs to be fenced and equipped with benches, waste bins and a parking lot.

"The other dog parks were added to existing parkland," Danner said. "We are creating a brand-new park in an unused, unsightly area."

The park would be financed with money from the city's Weeki Wachee Fund, which can be used only for recreation and beautification projects. More than $2.1-million of the fund has been spent on projects such as skate parks and the Vinoy Basin Boardwalk.

The council must also set aside money to cover 10 years of maintenance expenses for all Weeki Wachee projects. It's unclear how much that will cost on top of the park's price tag. The fund is made up of $14.4-million earned from the sale of a 440-acre recreation area in Hernando County in 2001.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Doggy park elicits howls 09/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 1:12pm]

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