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Dog Park Improvement $$ Sparks City Hall Debate

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Discussion went to the dogs Wednesday at Dallas City Hall -- literally.  An ordinance approving $946,000 for improvements at a city dog park set off a debate on whether that kind of investment is appropriate in tough time.

For dog park users, the answer is it IS appropriate. "This is absolutely my favorite place in the whole world.  We come out here several hours every morning," said Kyle Johnson, who with his canine friends Mama, Walker and Daisy, claimed the outings at North Bark Dog Park are good all-around fun.  "There'll be days out here where there'll be a hundred people and their dogs and it's really quite a social experience."

North Bark, near the intersection of the Dallas North Tollway and the President Bush Turnpike, is the city's premier off-leash dog park.  There are 20 acres of ground, a pond for dogs to swim in, dog washing stations, along with amenities for people and pooches.  Its price tag was an estimated $1.5 million.

North Bark is the newest of Dallas' four off-leash parks, including a second one in North Dallas and a third downtown.  But the city is turning its attention to the very first off-leash park: Mockingbird Point at White Rock Lake.  It was opened in 2001 with $40,000 in private donations -- long before there were standards for dog parks.  "There was no precedent we could use or base our design on," Dallas Parks Director Willis Winters told CBS 11 News.  "It was truly the first."

But Mockingbird Point is small and muddy, with no irrigation systems or erosion control.  The councilman there, Sheffie Kadane, wants to spend nearly a million dollars of his district's designated park money to improve it.  But southern sector council member Dwaine Caraway balked at the figure.   "We're spending millions of dollars on dog parks but we have a stray dog problem throughout the southern portion of the city," claimed Caraway, who also argued that libraries and rec centers have been scaled back in the recent past; and besides, there are no dog parks in the southern sector.

Councilman Jerry Allen and others pointed out that the money being discussed Wednesday was specifically approved for parks, by voters in a 2006 bond election.  "It is, as Mr. Allen said, up to the council member to decide how they want and where they want to put that fund," council member Sandy Greyson told her colleagues.

In the end, even Caraway voted to approve the funds and the measure passed unanimously.

Back at North Bark, Dylan Mory and Sascha, who have played at Mockingbird Point, believe the money will be well spent.  "I think considering the venue it could probably use some of that money down there at White Rock," Mory told CBS 11 News.

Mockingbird Point is scheduled to be closed for upgrades in March and could reopen by the end of the year.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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