Superior releases the hounds
Dog owners in Superior got an early Christmas present this year. Fencing for the city's first dog park was completed the day after Thanksgiving and it's been a hotbed of canine activity ever since.
"Someone messaged me Sunday: 'There are 15 dogs here, is it open?'" said Linda Cadotte, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry for the city.
A ribbon-cutting for the park, nestled beside the Millennium Trail along North 28th Street and Wyoming Avenue, takes place at 10 a.m. today. The Superior Jaycees will celebrate the park's opening at 10 a.m. Saturday with donuts, cookies, punch and dog treats.
"It's a great park," said Brent Fennessey, a Jaycee and councilor for the city's 5th District. "Hopefully, when everyone sees how much it's used, we can add another one into the planning conversations."
An off-leash dog park has been on the city's to-do list for years. It ranked extremely high in public survey results for what people want to see in Superior.
"It was something that kept coming out in every way, shape and angle," Cadotte said.
So she rearranged the department's $140,000 Capital Improvement Program funding to include the dog park. In October, City Council members approved the project — nearly $18,000 for fencing and another $7,500 for running utilities to the site.
"When the community has input, ideas, wants something to happen, we're working for them," Cadotte said. "That's why this happened."
Taylor Walkky, a member of the grassroots Dog Park Committee, stopped by the park Tuesday.
"I couldn't believe it was a reality," she said. "Just seeing it cleared and the fence up was amazing."
The path to releasing the hounds was a winding one.
The Superior Jaycees launched a plan to build a dog park near the Billings Park Civic Center in 2014, offering more than $22,000 and volunteers to maintain it. The proposal met resistance from nearby residents. When the city proposed a different site between Bear Creek Park and Moccasin Mike Road, the Jaycees stepped back and the plan for a dog park was tabled.
The resident-led Superior Dog Park Committee, formed in 2015 through the Leadership Superior/Douglas County program, took the ball and ran with it.
"We thought it was something Superior desperately needed," Walkky said.
They pinpointed another Billings Park location for the park, beside the Millennium Trail. It was approved by the City Council in April 2016.
The underbrush was cleared from the site by committee members in November 2016 and volunteers from Enbridge Energy in May, with city crews putting in the finishing touches.
"We spent time talking about clearing more trees," Walkky said, but chose to leave it wooded. "I like it."
The trees provide a wind block, shade and give it a different atmosphere from Duluth's dog parks.
Walkky said leadership group members are glad the city took on the project and surprised at how quickly the park went up. It will give her corgi-border collie mix Marshall plenty of space to chase tennis balls.
Olivia Johnson stopped by Tuesday with her blue heeler-American Eskimo cross Bandit. The pair has been travelling half an hour to one of Duluth's dog parks, and was thrilled when Superior's opened.
"This one is literally a few blocks from my house," Johnson said.
She doesn't have a big fenced yard, so the dog park allows Bandit a chance to wander and meet new friends.
"It's a good way to get your dog socialized," Johnson said.
Marvin Pomeroy of Superior brought Baloo, his Chihuahua-terrier mix, to the park Tuesday. The 11-pound pooch is a great at-home companion, but has a hard time getting along with other people and pets.
"Now he's among half a dozen people and animals," Pomeroy said, watching Baloo wander, sniff and follow other dogs. "It's awesome for him. He can be who he really is."
Rules are posted at the site, which has no lights or running water. Bags and a garbage can were added to the park Monday so owners can clean up after their pets.
Walkky said the Dog Park Committee plans to remain active.
"Obviously, the work is not done yet," she said.
The site could use benches, lights, water and a separate area for small dogs. Their fundraising efforts can focus on those needs, she said, and maybe a second Superior site.
For more information, visit the Superior Dog Park Facebook page or the city website, ci.superior.wi.us, under the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
Public input sessions on the city's Master Park Plan, Municipal Forest Master Plan and Billings Park Master Plan will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Billings Park Civic Center and Dec. 11 in room 270 of the Government Center. Everyone is invited to attend and voice their opinions on tweaking the plans, last examined in 2010.