Phoenix’s newest dog park

hance park
Great news for downtown Phoenix dog lovers — there’s a new dog park in their ‘hood.

The Margaret T. Hance Dog Park opens Saturday. It is about an acre on Culver Street between Third and Fifth avenues, with dedicated areas for large and small dogs and big plans for strengthening community spirit.

Dog lovers should cheer the new park’s existence as well as persistence of neighbors to create the park. The lessons these neighbors learned may help others throughout metro Phoenix create their own neighborhood dog parks.

Creating a dog park, in turns out, is more than slapping up some chain link and letting dogs run free.

The push for a downtown dog park started more than two years ago. The initial city of Phoenix committee had more than 70 individuals look at various places to put a park. With that many people on the committee, there were a lot of different ideas to be hashed through: Where should it go? Could it in some small way reduce the downtown heat island? Budget? How to make it palatable to neighbors without dogs? Was creating a dog park coming at the expense of creating basketball courts or recreation areas? How to make it safe for people? And the dogs?

Eventually Hance Park was selected as a site.

That meant even more discussions since the city had even bigger plans for Hance Park.  The central Phoenix park, built on top of the I-10 tunnel, is 32.5 acres but it has never really taken off as a community gathering spot. Its trees didn’t flourish; its water features were turned off and a planned amphitheater and carousel never materialized.

With more people living downtown, many believe Hance Park’s time has come and a new master plan to revitalize the park calls for a possible skate board park, baseball diamond, concert venue as new features.

Some people suggested the dog park just be temporary until details of the master plan were finished.

No, the city of Phoenix said if there was going to be a dog park, it was going to be permanent.

The discussions around the dog park didn’t just happen in city offices; they actually went to court. A neighbor filed a lawsuit trying to stop it but a judge ruled there was no proof that a dog park is detrimental to a neighborhood’s property values.

All this intrigue happened before the first move of the shovel. And then there was even more drama.

The park’s rock wall, selected because of its attractiveness and potential soundproofing, added more than $100,000 to the project’s cost. That meant some last-minute budget cuts: no picnic tables, no large trees. Neighbors were told that larger trees would cost $550 a piece extra and that if they wanted them, they had to collect the money within two weeks.

The neighbors were not dissuaded. They had already sat through hours of meetings, presentations and negotiations and they were determined that their neighborhood have a good park.

Some people opened their checkbooks immediately; others contacted other neighbors and went to surrounding neighborhood associations for funds.  The Willo neighborhood donated more than $1,000 and set up a way for its residents to make matching grants.

Together, they raised more than enough money for the trees before the two-week deadline.

Based on their experiences, the neighbors have created Friends of Hance Dog Park, dedicated to the maintenance and improvement of the park, including having dog-related community events such as dog adoptions.

Members are doing more than putting their money where their mouth is. They are planning to have weekly clean-ups at the dog park to strengthen relations with people who live around the park.

These neighbors were doggedly determined to have a great park for their companions and community. We can all take a lesson from them.

Remember their hard work and enjoy the park!

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