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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2004

Windward dog park proposed

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KAILUA — Kea'alu Neighborhood Park could be the city's next dog park if the surrounding community buys into the idea.

Members of the Windward Dog Park Coalition were to canvass homes in the area yesterday, including residents of Kane'ohe Yacht Terrace, which skirts the three-acre city park across the street from the Kane'ohe Yacht Club.

O'ahu has dog parks at Moanalua, the Hawaiian Humane Society and Diamond Head. Work is progressing on a dog park at a Mililani site, with plans to open it at the end of August, said Bill Balfour, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The city has identified Kea'alu as a possible site for a dog park, but neighbors opposed the idea several years ago, Balfour said.

"If they can get everyone to agree, I'll put up the fence and put in the water and we can have a dog park there," he said.

Christel Olson, dog park coordinator for the coalition, said the group was to inform the community yesterday, hand out educational material and take concerns from residents.

The coalition will also hold an open house at the park from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday to discuss the issue, Olson said.

One difficulty the group must overcome is people's negative perception of dog parks, Olson said.

"They think it's vicious dogs running around, pooping all over, biting people and just leaving," she said. "They don't realize that dogs play, that owners pick up the poop and the type of person who brings his dog to the park is a responsible owner."

Only half of the three-acre park would be fenced, Olson said. The site was suggested because it's underused, has grass and would require little work to make it a dog park. The city would do the work in-house and the only cost would be for material, she said.

The coalition had identified a previous location near Kalaheo High School, but that would require more work and take longer to complete, Olson said.

About 3,000 people had signed a petition asking for a dog park there but Mayor Jeremy Harris said the project could be done faster if a city park were used, she said.

"We all thought it was a terrific idea because it would mean we could have a dog park within a couple of months," Olson said.

Shannon Wood, who initiated the Kalaheo dog park idea, said the Kane'ohe Bay Drive park is ideal because it's a beautiful site and it's easy to access from Kailua, Kane'ohe and Marine Corps Base Hawai'i.

"There's money in the current budget to get it up and running in a few months," Wood said. "But obviously you need to go to the neighbors to make sure they feel comfortable about it."

By using underused parks and in-house labor, the Parks Department has been able to cut the time it would take to plan and build a dog park through the budget process, Balfour said. The city's tight budget also limits the number of projects that can be done.

"It's all about prioritizing," Balfour said. "You have to look at what's the biggest bang for the buck. What's going to bring the most gratification for the citizens and the community. That's what you go for."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.