The damage to the park, located on 4th Avenue South between 10th and 11th streets, is a result of vandalism by one or more people, said Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), who also serves as vice president of Dog Grounds, the nonprofit organization that builds and maintains off-leash dog parks Downtown.
“That kind of damage would not happen from normal use,” she said. “Clearly, this is an issue of vandalism. We’re not sure if it’s they don’t like dogs or they don’t like the park at that location, but what’s happening is they’re essentially kicking in and breaking off pieces of the Hardie Board fence.”
The small piece of land had once been a section of right-of-way owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) when I-35W was built through Downtown.
Dog Grounds saw an opportunity to build its third dog park there and after about $150,000 in private funding from individual donors and sponsors, Gateway Dog Park was completed in fall 2008.
“This was not done with government money,” Goodman said. “So when the park is vandalized, it’s a real slap in the face to the people who have worked so hard to take what was an unused, overgrown and filthy piece of right-of-way.”
Patrica Bloodgood, secretary, treasurer and acting president of Dog Grounds, said the fence was first vandalized in May. After the damaged panels were replaced with extras, more of the fence was broken in June.
Neither Loring Park nor North Loop dog parks, which have been open for two years, have seen this level of vandalism.
As a temporary fix, Dog Grounds had a contractor patch some of the holes and install several plywood boards on July 7 to replace the most heavily damaged panels.
This was to allow the park to remain open and ensure the safety of dogs that could have otherwise jumped through the missing chunks of fence.
Bloodgood said the group is in the process of ordering new Hardie Board — a fibrous concrete board that comprises most of the fence’s structure. Interior bracing and top and bottom rails will also be installed along the fence to reinforce it and prevent vandalism.
She said the fix-ups will cost about $3,000, some of which will come from Dog Grounds’ annual fundraiser, which took place June 18, but most has yet to be raised.
The restorations should be complete by early August, Bloodgood said.
As further preventative measures, police have been notified and security cameras are now more focused on the park, Goodman said.
Angela Warren and Matthew Koropchak of Grant Park said they have been coming to Gateway Dog Park since shortly after it opened. Koropchak said he felt disappointed when he saw the vandalism, but he was not surprised.
“These are great panels, but they’re just not really urban-proof,” he said.
But Oslund and Associates architect David Motzenbecker, who designed the park, said the panels are designed to be a durable outdoor material. Dog Grounds board members chose Hardie Board as a cost-effective way to get an interesting design.
“As with any type of public space, the more attention that is paid to it, the more care that it is given, then the less vandalism occurs in the space,” Motzenbecker said. “With the replacement of these pieces and the stronger policing and use of it by the city’s patrons, I think it will help keep it in good shape.”