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Columbia City eyes dog park opportunity on port property

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: KATIE WILSON - Property between Highway 30 and Port of St. Helens offices in Columbia City is slated for a fenced, off-leash dog park pending approval by both the port commission and the city.A dog park is in the works in Columbia City.

At a Port of St. Helens commission meeting May 22, Columbia City Administrator Leahnette Rivers brought further information about a city dog park proposed for port property to the port commissioners. The dog park must still be approved by the port and granted a conditional use permit by the city. The park’s application is currently scheduled for a public planning commission hearing June 11.

If approved, it will be the only fenced, off-leash dog park in the south county area, Rivers said.

The city’s Parks Committee has been working on finding a site for several months, evaluating five different potential areas, two of them on port-owned property. The committee finally settled on one of these port-owned properties, a square of land along E Street, next to Highway 30. A parking lot separates the property from the port’s office building and the park would be constructed right next to Western Oregon Wood Products, which leases land from the port.

The city prefers the site for a number of reasons.

“It’s more visible and it’s a noisy site,” Rivers said. In general, she added, the access is also better with the nearby port office parking lot and the possibility to develop other parking options in the area.

Park-like conditions already exist on the property. All the city really needs to do is erect a fence and post signage, Rivers said.

However, there is one caveat.

The dog park, if approved, will not be permanent under any current agreements. If the port finds a business interested in using the property, the dog park will have to find another location. Rivers said the city understands and the temporary nature of the park will be communicated to residents.

Port Commissioner Chris Iverson said he thinks the dog park is a “great idea.”

“I like to see partnerships between public entities,” he said.

But, he cautioned, it is important that any agreements between the city and the port, especially the temporary nature of the park, are clearly communicated.

The port’s Executive Director Patrick Trapp agreed, although he added that he does not anticipate an expansion by Western Oregon Wood Products into that property in the near future, nor has there been outside interest by other businesses recently.