Parks Board Supports Shrinking Off-Leash Area
Suggested plan would require new Downtown housing to provide dog play areas
A proposed makeover for Auditorium Shores that would substantially reduce the size of the park's off-leash dog area won the approval of the Parks and Recreation Board Tuesday night. The board voted 5-1 to recommend the plan to City Council, with a suggested requirement that new Downtown multi-family projects include dog runs or play areas. Board member Bill Abell cast the dissenting vote. City Council is scheduled to consider the plan at its meeting today (Thursday, Dec. 12), but a postponement is likely.
The plan has drawn strong opposition from dog owners who use the park (see last week's "Then There's This"). They accuse Parks officials of deliberately shutting them out of the process in deference to concert and event planner C3 Presents, which donated $3.5 million toward the park's redevelopment. Internal emails obtained by the Austin American-Statesman bear out claims that the Parks and Rec Department sought to contain and control the message on the park plan and that C3's Charlie Jones, according to the Statesman's account, did state his desire to move dogs out of Auditorium Shores' east end.
Under the proposed plan, dogs would be banned from the east end's main event lawn, and moved to a 4.7-acre confined off-leash area on the west end – ending decades of off-leash freedom across Auditorium Shores' entire 18 acres. Representatives of the Austin Parks Foundation, which formed a partnership with PARD and C3 to navigate the redevelopment, spoke in favor of the plan, as did a rep from the Trail Foundation, a SXSW event planner, neighborhood activist David King (who advocated its community use, not the prospect of more special events), and enviro activist Scott Johnson.
Though 53 people had signed up to speak against the proposal, and 26 in favor, the board opted to hear from 10 people from each side to allow, as Chair Jane Rivera put it, "people to get home to their families."