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While Hipp worked to complete these tasks, commissioner positions on the parks board were turning over, from former Mayor Barnes' appointees to the board chosen by Mayor Mark Funkhouser. The new mayor reminded his board of their responsibility: to improve people's satisfaction with the parks.
But an immediate controversy distracted the board. One of the mayor's appointees, Frances Semler, turned out to be involved with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a radical group opposed to illegal immigration.
The ensuing public debate on Semler kicked up a lot of emotion and confusion, so WOOF's leadership decided to let the air settle before presenting the parks board with its plan for a dog park. "While we were nice and waiting, our opponents were going to the board meetings every week and filling their [the commissioners'] heads with all this misinformation," Root says.
In August 2007, around 30 WOOF supporters showed up to the commissioners' meeting hoping to clear up misunderstandings about the group's intentions. Instead, they were informed that the board had just enacted a new policy: Off-leash areas for dogs cannot be erected in parks smaller than 100 acres.
The new rule shot down WOOF's plan like it was a rabid Old Yeller. Sunnyside Park is only 21 acres. WOOF's appeals for a public-comment period on the new policy were gaveled into silence.
WOOF ran into problems because the parks board has no clear policy governing dog parks, says Dona Boley. Boley is on the board of the Kessler Society. That group, named for George Kessler, the city planner and landscape designer who created Kansas City's system of parks and boulevards, sponsors and promotes projects that fall in line with Kessler's original vision (and discourages projects that might clash with those intentions). Its influence carries weight: When Boley opposed early plans for a skatepark in Gillham Park, for instance, the site was reconsidered, and Penn Valley Park became the skatepark's eventual home.
When it comes to dog parks, "other cities have guidelines, which makes it easy," Boley says, then recites the seven bullet points that govern park planners in Seattle for the placement of off-leash parks.
The parks board soon reached the same conclusion. One month after the contentious August 2007 meeting, it put the new dog-park policy on hold and appointed a 12-member task force to study the issue.
Root says the task force told WOOF to expect a report in six months. That was a year and a half ago. At one meeting of the task force that Root observed, only four of the 12 members showed up.
Meanwhile, she says, her group has tried to come up with creative solutions to possible obstacles. Though users of the park would be required to clean up after themselves, a company called Stinkies has offered its scooping services for free. Double gates could provide extra security to keep dogs from getting loose. A fenced area within the outer fence could segregate small dogs from big dogs. "We're bending over backwards to solve every problem," Root says.
Sometimes, though, all the bending in the world won't change a person's mind.
John Hager is the president of 3&2 Baseball Club, a nonprofit league for kids that has used the three diamonds at Sunnyside Park for more than 30 years. He opposes the dog park and will tick off a list of reasons for anyone who asks. But when it comes right down to it, he just doesn't see the point of them in the first place.