Lawrence dog park users voice opposition to city’s plan to build road along park

photo by: John Shelton/contributed photo

A field filled with hay bales is pictured from one of the paths at the city's Mutt Run Off-Leash Dog Park in this undated photo from fall 2019.

A group of Lawrence residents has come out against the city’s plan to build a road adjacent to the local dog park that would connect the Youth Sports Complex to the Clinton Lake spillway.

The project would install an approximately 1-mile paved roadway connecting existing segments of West 27th Street on both the east and west sides of the spillway, creating a continuous roadway from the Kansas Highway 10 and 27th Street intersection to East 902 Road at the city’s Mutt Run Off-Leash Dog Park. A group of 30 residents sent a letter to city commissioners and staff asking the city to delay the project and address their concerns.

Lawrence resident Anne Fowler, who regularly takes her dogs Bob and Jack to the park, is one of the organizers of the group. Fowler said the plan of putting a two-lane road with fencing next to the dog park will be disruptive to the environment, the wildlife and visitors to the park.

“We’ll have the car traffic and pollution,” Fowler said. “It will really destroy the tranquility of the dog park.”

photo by: City of Lawrence

A map shows a connection that would link two existing segments of 27th Street, connecting the Youth Sports Complex to the Clinton Lake spillway, creating another point of access for the complex, the nearby dog park and the lake.

The city has been awarded $1.04 million from the Kansas Department of Transportation for the project, and the city must pay for all of the design costs and match 25% of the construction costs, as the Journal-World previously reported. Currently, there is $250,000 for the project included in the city’s capital improvement plan for 2021, which is part of the working budget that the commission will consider approving on Aug. 11. The design of the road would still need additional approvals to move forward.

The project currently calls for a 5,300-foot roadway that is 24 feet wide and accompanied by a 10-foot-wide shared-use path. City officials have said the project aims to provide more direct access to the dog park, Clinton Lake and nearby Eagle Bend Golf Course, as well as improve access to the sports complex. The connection would provide a second entry/exit point to the complex, which currently has only one access point at the intersection of K-10 and 27th Street and commonly creates traffic backups near the intersection.

Fowler said she doesn’t see access to the dog park, golf course or Clinton Lake as a problem, but does understand there are traffic issues with the sports complex. However, she said that the city should wait to see if the upcoming expansion of K-10, an ongoing KDOT project, would address the traffic issues at the intersection of K-10 and 27th Street before building the new road.

“It doesn’t seem to us that it’s reasonable to really significantly alter that wonderful green space for that one issue,” Fowler said.

The group’s letter to city staff and commissioners states that rerouting traffic from the complex will forever change the open space and tranquility of Mutt Run and the environment around it. The letter asks that the city more deeply analyze how the project will affect the dog park and delay the project until studies and design plans for KDOT’s upcoming expansion of K-10 are complete. The letter goes on to say that if the road is ultimately built, in the very least it should be only one-way out of the sports complex, so as to minimize the amount of traffic.

photo by: John Shelton/contributed photo

John and Ellen “Rusty” Shelton’s Brittany spaniel Gunnison stands atop a hay bale at the city’s Mutt Run Off-Leash Dog Park in this undated photo from summer 2019.

Another frequent user of the dog park, John Shelton, said that given the upcoming expansion of K-10, which will include intersection design changes at 27th Street, he sees the connection as unnecessary and a waste of money. Shelton, who is also one of the signees of the letter, said he takes his dog to the park daily and that the road would spoil the serenity of the area.

City officials say the project could actually help to improve the park. Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mark Hecker told the Journal-World that there is still a lot of time to plan ahead of the project, which he said would not get underway until 2022. He said the city also plans to make improvements to the park ahead of the road project, and encouraged those with concerns to reach out to the city.

“I think a lot of people are perceiving what (the road project) is going to be, but I don’t think it’s going to be near as bad as people think it’s going to be,” Hecker said. “And the dog park can coexist. We want to enhance it and not detract from it.”

The next step in the project would be to advertise a request for qualifications for engineering design services. Hecker said that the design would then need to be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, KDOT and the City Commission. As Hecker previously told the Journal-World, Parks and Recreation would be scheduling public meetings in the fall with dog park patrons to discuss anticipated improvements for the park.

photo by: John Shelton/contributed photo

A field filled with wildflowers is pictured from one of the paths at the city’s Mutt Run Off-Leash Dog Park in this undated photo from fall 2019.


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