AUSTIN -- The city council voted on Thursday to approve a controversial redesign of Auditorium Shores dog park.
The renovation centered around dogs being off leash. Currently, dogs can roam free on all 18 acres of the park, but in the new design plan, the off leash area would be reduced to 4.7 acres in a blocked off area. Dogs would be allowed on leashes in another area and banned altogether from the far east end, where events and concerts normally take place.
The item had to be pulled off the agenda because so many people signed up to speak. When the council discussed it, supporters said banning dogs in some areas would make the park safe for children and runners. While opponents said the dogs aren't dangerous and the public should have more of a voice in the design.
"It is desperately in need of improvement, and, more importantly than that, it solves the problem of safety, which is very real out there. The collision of dogs and cyclist and runners is something that happens on a daily basis, and something needs to be done about it," said Colin Wallace, executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation. The foundation and several other organizations, including the Trail Foundation, support the plan.
"What happened with the community involvement in this?" said Austin Realtor Teresa Quay who opposes the design. "I think I'm plugged in, and I didn't hear anything about it. There has been no concern for the public opinion. No vetting. On the contrary, there's been a back room treatment of this issue."
After listening to speakers and questioning staff from the Parks and Recreation Department, the council voted to approve the plan, but added in that dogs are allowed on leashes on the east lawn.
C3 Events is donating $3.5 million to the city over the next five years to pay for the renovation. It is set to be complete by the middle of next year.