Temporary dog park approved at Margaret T. Hance Park

Amid debate over a permanent dog park downtown, a temporary park was approved for a location near Third and Fifth avenues by the Margaret T. Hance Park Steering Committee. (Evie Carpenter/DD)

Plans for a downtown dog park continue to elicit fervent debate, but the Margaret T. Hance Park Steering Committee voted to approve a temporary dog park at a meeting held March 6 at Burton Barr Central Library.

The motion was approved 8-4-1 in favor of a temporary dog park near Third and Fifth avenues at Margaret T. Hance Park. Committee members Mike Whiting, Joan Kelchner, Linda Holman-Bentley and Kris Floor were opposed, and Tim Sprague abstained.

Committee member Louise Roman initiated the discussion by referencing the now-disbanded Ad Hoc Downtown Dog Park Citizen’s Committee, which was formed to recommend possible locations.

The meeting’s discussion focused on two recommendations: the temporary dog park and the request for qualification.

The first motion that passed tasked the committee with placing a dog park at Hance Park. The RFQ is a process to request hiring a design firm to create the dog park’s master plan.

Discussion of the RFQ prompted a preliminary debate over where the park should be located and who should decide — the committee or its potential designers.

The committee ultimately decided that a temporary park would address the community’s desire for a park and give the design team an opportunity to move the location if there proved to be a better one.

“There wouldn’t be as much infrastructure in terms of investment since the site of it might move,” Roman said.

This raised controversy over where the temporary dog park should be in Hance Park.

Roman said the area near Third and Fifth avenues, west of the Japanese Friendship Garden and north of Moreland Street were the primary locations examined.

Roman suggested that the committee pass a motion to create a temporary dog park near Third and Fifth avenues.

“It’s an extension of the existing park,” she said.

Joan Kelchner, a fellow committee member, disagreed.

“First of all, it is the way of bureaucracy that once you establish something as temporary, it tends to grow roots,” she said.

Kelchner argued that the location would present several problems, including the difficulty to move the park to a permanent location and inaccessibility to residents.

Kelchner also mentioned that the Third and Fifth avenue area is not handicap-accessible. Instead, she suggested First Street as the best option.

There will be a few more meetings to fine-tune the project, but the ultimate test will be the vote of the City Council, according to Roman.

“Our goal is for the RFQ to be drafted and issued sometime in the fall,” Roman said.

Roman estimated it could be two years until downtown would see the temporary dog park. The park needs to meet certain requirements of the city of Phoenix, such as handicap accessibility and proper amount of square footage.

Sean Sweat, a downtown community advocate, has been a proponent of the First Street location.

The idea of a dog park for downtown residents was initiated in August 2010. Since then, it has incited numerous disputes and community action, including the creation of the Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee by former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

Sweat said there were flaws from the beginning. The Ad Hoc Dog Park Committee was an act of political railroading by Mayor Gordon, he said, and the original vote for the dog park in downtown was 60 percent in favor of the McKinley lot.

“He has stacked the deck,” he said.

Sweat  said the Third and Fifth location would eliminate the goal of walkability because it is too far of a distance from the most-populated area of downtown.

“To make downtown work, we have to create an environment where people don’t have to have cars,” Sweat said. “It is moving us further from what should be the goal downtown.”

Roman opposed the First Street location and said it was not within the jurisdiction of Hance Park.

The First Street location would also require an annexation of the road. The committee felt that this could jeopardize the dog park being passed by the City Council, Roman said.

“We have very strong opposition and very strong support,” said Karen Williams, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department. “The demand for a downtown dog park is greater than ever before.”

It’s a matter of city staff and management getting on board, but the committee wants to make it a signature park, Williams said.

“This isn’t the end; this is just the beginning,” she said.

Contact the reporter at aiyana.havir@asu.edu

Josselyn Berry contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story replaces an article published March 7 called “Location suggestion for temporary dog park voted down by Hance Park committee” that contained a number of errors of fact. The retraction can be found here.


  1. My memory of the vote was that 5 Committee members voted for the Third-Firth Avenue site, 4 members voted against and 1 abstained, or a 5-4-1 vote not a 8-4-1 vote.

    My understanding is that the Committee intends to have only one additional meeting – April 3 – before it makes its recommendation.

  2. Hi Bob,

    Erin Mullarkey gave me the information of the vote. Was she possibly mistaken? Unfortunately, I wasn’t the reporter who attended the meeting so I have to go off of what the officials tell me.

    Also, Karen Williams told me the next committee meeting was on April 3rd, but Louise Roman said there would be a few until the RFQ is drafted and issued. Is this incorrect?

    Thank you for your help!

  3. As a member of the Ad Hoc Dog Park committee, I came to understand that the “downtown” residents really have a need for a “downtown” dog park and the Hance “island” between 3rd&5th does not meet their needs. Mr Sweat has presented many great ideas supported by some awesome computer presentations, and each idea has been shot down with no serious look into these plans. I have also noticed a large amount of visitor foot traffic on Central, 1st & 3rd Streets heading north in the direction of the Heard & Phx Art museums or maybe Hance, since some have been accompanied by dogs. I have NOT seen this same foot traffic involving apparent visitors on 3rd or 5th Ave. So hats off to Sean, maybe the City of Phx Tourism group will pay heed to the needs of their downtown guests; as well as, the downtown residents!

  4. Several corrections need to be made to this article. The Steering committee had already voted to recommend the RFQ process at a prior meeting. This meeting focused on defining the program elements the Steering Committee recommends the professional design team ( hired by RFQ) address in their approach to master planning Hance Park. The dog park at Hance, a prior and underlying directive to the Steering Committee from Parks and Rec via the Ad Hoc dog park committee, was ONE of those elements. There was much discussion about temporary or permanent approach as well as site location for the dog park in Hance. My recollection was that the vote was 5- 4 -1 to recommend placement of a temporary dog park between 3 – 5 Ave. south of Culver. This area is not an ‘extension’ of Hance Park, as reported, it is already part of Hance Park. The master plan designers may find better permanent site in Hance as they undertake their work. The ‘annexation’ of 1st Street to Hance Park was not supported as that site is not part of the existing park, the committee’s area of focus. The Steering Committee Hance site recommendation in no way precludes Mr Sweat and his group from pursuing the 1st St site or other sites that are more accessible to downtown dog owners. It would be unfortunate if the entire energy and possibility of a ‘big idea’ master plan for Hance, or for that matter, a truly downtown dog park, got derailed by acrimony.

  5. I am a committee member who was present at the meeting discussed in this article. Thank you Downtown Devil for correcting many of the inaccuracies in the first article on this topic. This article is much more accurate and better reflective of the committee’s decision. As Ms. Roman’s comments allude to, the issue is very complex and there was a significant amount of discussion among the committee members and from the public who attended the meeting.

    There were 13 committee members present for the vote, and I believe that the final vote was as follows (although the committee meeting minutes will confirm the final tally): 7 in favor of the site, 4 opposed, and 2 abstained. As Ms. Roman mentioned, there had been an earlier vote by which the committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of recommending a dog park in Hance Park, and in favor of allowing the RFP professionals determine the best location for the site based upon their assessment of all the prevailing issues and in accordance with the guidelines that will be presented by the Committee. Thus, while there was some division upon the precise location of the temporary dog park, the Committee was very much in favor of a permanent location for a dog park within Hance Park and for allowing the design professions to select the final location.

    As to Ms. Schilling’s comments about the Downtown Dog Park Committee (of which I was also a member), there were approximately 70 people on that committee and at least that many different impressions about the motives, purpose, results and recommendations that came out of that committee. While I am not discounting her recollection of events, my understanding of what happened in that committee is quite different. What cannot be disputed is that the committee did end up making two site-recommendations for a dog park (one of which was Hance Park) to the parks department/city council, and the parks department thereafter voted to proceed upon the recommended site at Hance Park.

    I believe that there will be pros and cons, advocates and naysayers, with any site selected for a dog park (and indeed, I am a big supporter of a Hance Park dog park, but proposed it in a different location within Hance Park). Wherever the dog park goes, I believe the following: (i) there is a need and a desire for a dog park to serve downtown residents and visitors, and dog parks provide a safe, friendly, positive community experience for their users; (ii) the insertion of a dog park will necessarily cause changes (hopefully more positive than negative) to any location it is ultimately placed in and those need to be considered and addressed; (iii) decisions about community facilities like dog parks must take into account a variety of factors, influences and interests, and just because something might be “interesting” doesn’t necessarily make it feasible or realistic or appropriate; and (iv) Hance Park is a “first” downtown dog park – a successful Hance Park dog park will serve as a model for the inclusion of dog parks into other public spaces; and (v) as we begin to include dog parks within our downtown public spaces, we should be especially sensitive to any negative impacts that might disproportionately burden individual members of our community and take efforts to minimize them whenever possible.

  6. Re: “Roman opposed the First Street location and said it was not within the jurisdiction of Hance Park.”

    I would think the area of the park, running FROM 1st street to 3rd St., along McKinley, is “within the jurisdiction of Hance Park”, with two long strips of park land right there that’d be ideal for dogs AND more community interaction w both the park itself & the surrounding neighborhood, if designated a dog park area.

    But then what do I know. I’m only a downtown resident, not a committee member.

  7. The minutes of all the ad hoc dog park mtgs are public record & anyone can read that the ad hoc group eliminated Site B (3rd-5th)& encanto sites in the 1st or 2nd mtg. Final vote was L or any other place in Hance not to be restricted to site M or N & it was definitely the moment that most realized we had seriously wasted our time, because the people who really need this dog space were not going to get it where they wanted. And I knew after that vote that somebody in authority over this project would take the whole vote out of context and focus only on site B (the site that person had presented in 2010 before any of us had heard a word about it); which is exactly what has happened.