Picketing for puppies: the fight for a dog park in North Bay Village
Dog-loving protesters in North Bay Village got their paw in the door in their quest for a dog park Thursday evening.
After spirited argument and much sign waving, the North Bay Village commission unanimously voted to bankroll fencing for a dog park in the village.
But activists’ tails aren’t wagging just yet. The $10,000 fence fund came with a few caveats. Primarily, there’s nowhere to fence.
On small islands already filled with condominiums and apartments, part of the problem is simply lack of land. The available lots are all waterfront, and the city can’t afford the real estate, said Maxine Tayar, who organized the dog friendly protest (complete with picket signs and furry friends).
“We have to use land the city already owns,” she said. “We’re not asking for big dog parks, we just need a tiny tiny space for the dogs to be off leash.”
The dog park devotees suggested two potential spots — Schonberger Park and Dr. Paul Vogel Park. Both parks are currently children’s playgrounds, but Tayar said her group only wants a sliver of the available space, maybe one fifth or one sixth of the park.
Schonberger Park, on Galleon Street, next to the police station, is the more likely of the two, but the land is adjacent to Treasure Island School.
Jorge Gonzalez, vice mayor and commissioner of North Bay Village, said the city has considered a dog park in this location before but abandoned the idea when school district officials had concerns about the proximity of children and animals.
“Just because it’s been identified doesn’t mean it’s been approved,” he cautioned activists.
In rebuttal, Tayar pointed out Winters Park on nearby Bay Harbor Island. The park has space for children and dogs side-by-side.
Gonzalez said his top concerns were safety and hygiene, as well as meeting American Kennel Association standards for dog park size.
“If we can solve those problems I have no issue with it whatsoever,” he told the audience at the commission meeting.
Commissioner Dr. Richard Chervony suggested a double fence, two feet apart, with bushes in between, to separate the park from the school.
“It’s not the adequate size, no. But it’s the only size we have,” he said. “Let’s be realistic, let’s offer our residents something they’ll use.”
Another option, Tayar said, is a parcel of land adjacent to Channel 7 temporarily offered to the group by land developer Scott Greenwald. Her group is exploring a more permanent agreement.
The next step to a dog park is an official OK from the commission on a specific parcel of land and scope of work.
If the money for fencing isn’t used in the upcoming fiscal year, the commission must vote to add it to next year’s budget, or else the funds automatically shuffle to the city’s general reserves.
Tayar said her group will not give up, nor will they wait for the commission to move on its own. The group plans to present a proposal at the next meeting, in October.
“We’re going to come to them with a fully baked, fully formed idea,” she said. “If they have to study it it will take them a trillion years. Our dogs will be dead by then.”
On the night of the meeting, dog park proponents carried signs with black markered slogans like “NBV needs a dog park!” and “You promised.”
Another protester, Doris Acosta O’Hare, pleaded with the commission for what she called a sorely needed service. Avery, O’Hare’s 7-year-old wheaten terrier mix, sat on her lap during the commission meeting.
“I’m tired of playing ball in the parking lot,” she said.
Follow Alex Harris on Twitter @harrisalexc