By Katie Fallon

A recent town hall meeting meant to review the city’s parks facilities and ask residents what changes they want to see at the facilities was quickly focused on the dog park issue once the floor was opened for residents to ask questions.

The meeting was a joint event between District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny and District 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins and was held in the library of Holy Spirit Preparatory School on Aug. 13.

While Jenkins stressed that the city has not made a decision as to the location of the dog park, for which the city’s 2008 budget has allocated $25,000, the issue nonetheless raised the ire of a handful of residents.

A majority of the potential dog park focus has been on its potential inclusion at Ridgeview Park. The two main locations listed as possibilities for the park include Ridgeview and Morgan Falls Park.

However, Meinzen McEnerny pointed out that the park at Morgan Falls is not suitable for the dog park.

“The issue with Morgan Falls is there is no water there and no shade,” she said.

Meinzen McEnerny said she agreed with one resident at the meeting who said Ridgeview is a better choice because the park is underused and would be a valuable park asset for Sandy Springs residents who live inside I-285.

Jenkins, who emphasized that the City Council will formally address the dog park location issue at its Sept. 11 meeting, said even if Ridgeview was chosen as the site for the dog park, there are severe sewer maintenance issues that needed to be addressed first in order to make the park safe for all visitors.

“Before we start putting in active things at that park, we’re going to have to renovate that park,” Jenkins said. “We can’t have people running around with raw sewage everywhere.”

Jenkins did agree that the park is a valuable piece of greenspace that is underutilized.

“Something should be done down there,” she said. “It’s an important 21 acres.”

Sandy Springs resident and Heritage Sandy Springs member D.J. DeLong said no matter where the location is, a dog park would rectify some of the problems the historic site has had with residents walking their dogs in the new Sandy Springs Society Entertainment Lawn at Heritage Green. DeLong said Heritage staffers often have to “shoo away” people letting their dogs use the entertainment lawn as a pooch playground.

The meeting, however, brought a fair mix on various sides of the dog park issue.

Resident Harriet Mills, who was a member of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Citizen Advisory Committee, said she would like to see the city use what little useable space there is at Ridgeview Park for area children instead of area pets.

In previous town hall meetings, Ridgeview neighbors have cited objections to the park that include inadequate acreage, increased traffic, health hazards and inadequate parking. In addition, residents have raised concerns about irresponsible dog owners who may not clean up after their canines, whether within the confines of the park or along the sidewalk leading to it.

If placed within Ridgeview, the dog park would encompass a one to two acre area of the nearly 21-acre site. The park has received formal support from a grassroots group of residents called the Pooch Pals, who have raised more than $15,000 to add to the city’s $25,000 for the development of the dog park.