Jock Park Proposal Left for the Dogs

The Boise State track and field that wasn't



Share Maack traversed the country for ten years in search of the perfect town.

"One of the reasons I choose and love Boise is because of its dog orientation," the D.C. area transplant says. A dog friendly city, Maack says, "was real big on my radar screen."

Maack found dog-friendly folks, trails and even an off-leash dog park near her North End home. But last month, Maack was unsure the open space for running and training would be a part of her border collie Chester's, future.

Dog folks who know the border collie know an affable dog with an instinctive urge to run.

"He's the classic black and white collie who needs to do work everyday and his walk is his work."

The off-leash running park where Chester runs and gets his "work" done was eyed as a field for another kind of runner.

A "very preliminary" proposal was on the board to turn the Military Reserve Flood Basin off-leash dog park into a track and field for Boise State University. But almost as soon as the talks began, the talks came to a sudden halt, much to the surprise of dog lovers who were ready to fight for the park to insure their dogs' ability to run free.

School officials said the proposed track would have served a host of organizations and freed up much-needed space at Bronco Stadium. But dog lovers and neighbors vocally complained to the city and Boise State about the potential loss of open space, extra traffic, noise, lighting and environmental strain in the area that boarders a Cottonwood covered stream and Foothills habitat.

"Community input was one part of the decision," says Frank Zang, spokesperson for Boise State. "Everyone agreed it was not the best location."

The dog park sits in a flood basin walled by dams constructed after the 1998 foothills fire to control erosion induced flooding says David Selvage, design manager for Boise Parks and Recreation. He says a flood would cover the basin and whatever sits in it-be it a dog park or track-with water.

"It's not a matter of if," Selvage says of flood prospects. "It's a matter of when."

That flood issue kind of stumped Maack. Why would anyone build in a flood basin, she asked.

But in the "very preliminary" talks to turn the park into a track, the answer equaled dollars and cents for Boise State's athletic program. As Boise State and the community continue to grow, so does interest in the university's athletic events, says Max Corbet, assistant athletic director for media relations at Boise State. That creates the need for extra space to hold events and seat fans, Corbet says, noting football remains the number one revenue source for Boise State athletics. But, Corbet says at the landlocked campus, "We don't have the luxury of space." That had the university eyeballing the Military Reserve park as a place to expand.

Corbet says a talk of stadium expansion constitutes part of what the university needs to do to plan for growth. Other proposals that could put 10,000 additional seats at the stadium include adding luxury suites to Bronco Stadium, seats at the top and filling in seating gaps to create a horseshoe shaped stadium.

But Zang says Boise State doesn't want to rush any decisions. "We have the ability to look around and view the best options."

Boise State's withdrawal of interest in the park relieved neighbors who frequent the area and say the Military Reserve park remains essential for the North and East End neighborhoods given the small size of many home lots in the area.

And the city's slow move to establish other off-leash dog parks had some wondering if another park would replace the Reserve Street park had Boise State decided to pursue expansion plans in that area.

A task force met during 2000 and 2001 to study the merits of dog off-leash areas or DOLAs. In an April 2001 executive summary, the task force recommended that DOLAs be established in each quadrant of the city. The recommendations proposed the Bowler Site in Southeast Boise as well as the off-leash dog park currently in use at the Military Reserve Flood Basin. At that time, the Reserve park was considered a temporary site. Other DOLAs had already been approved by April 2001 but those sites remain somewhere in development limbo. The Bowler site sits undeveloped and a Murgoitio site has not yet been annexed, says Amy Stall, spokesperson with the City of Boise. Another site near Morris Hill awaits funding and is currently in the Mayor's 2006 budget proposal.

Maack and Shannon Lewis, an East End resident, say their dogs would have not only missed out on the space and freedom the Military Reserve DOLA offers their pets, but they and their dogs would miss the culture cultivated by social pets who sniff the noses of their fellow canine and dog lovers who frequent the park and often chat at around a pair of picnic tables.

"It's just kind of a neat culture to go to," Maack says. Not everyone likes the unsolicited, sometimes hyper greeting of a strange dog, she says.

"He's (Chester) really social," Maack explains. "And he's free to do that and he doesn't have to be restrained."

Folks expect forward dog behavior at the park, Maack says, and forward dogs are quite good at acquainting humans with other humans, Lewis says.

"It's a really good way to meet in a casual place and meet all kinds of people," Lewis says.

Lewis takes Cisco, her senior citizen-aged mixed breed to the park about five times a week for a run and a little socializing. After almost a decade of living in the area, Cisco and Lewis have come to know a lot of faces.

"He's a well known dog in the community," Lewis says of her well-socialized mutt.

As Boise State further discussed the possibility of locating the school's track and field to Chester and Cisco's romping grounds, the talks turned to issues of community and neighborly respect.

"We also want to be a good neighbor," Zang says. "We also understand the value of the property use as a dog park."

Lewis says she plans to keep Cisco's leash status legal, regardless of the school and city's final decision, but says that perhaps not all dog owners follow the law. Some may have found another park to let their dogs run free, despite leash requirements.

"Once you give a community a certain type of freedom and then take it away, regulations are more likely to be ignored."


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