Two of the four declared candidates for Duluth mayor made comments recently about dog parks. Those comments from Chuck Horton and Jim Mattson are below. The News Tribune Opinion page also invited Emily Larson and Howie Hanson, the other declared mayoral candidates, to comment on the issue. Their comments also are below.

Prioritize children ahead of dogs

Chuck Horton contended in a news story in the News Tribune on May 19 that the city is not paying enough attention to the needs of young people and has misdirected resources toward projects such as creating dog parks.

“The park and rec department is abysmal right now. I love dogs, but a dog park’s a priority compared to where kids should play? No, absolutely not. This is the city that we all live in, and if we want to keep kids out of trouble, if we want to keep them off of drugs, if we want to keep them from making poor decisions, we have to pay to protect them; and, secondly, we need to mentor them.”

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Dog parks ‘a want and not a need’

Jim Mattson suggested in a June 4 News Tribune story that the city has no role to play in the creation of certain amenities. He said dog parks, for example, shouldn’t be on city land.

“All the dog owners in the city should form a club and charge its members dues. The city should sell them a lot. They will pay property taxes, and they can maintain it. Then they’ll have their dog parks. You see, that’s a want and not a need.”

Volunteers responsible for dog parks

Emily Larson responded by email: “Our dog parks have transformed what previously was underutilized parkland into welcoming and usable places where people and their pets socialize - together. They are created and supported by committed volunteers who have invested enormous amounts of time and personal resources to make this happen. Because of their efforts, we now have hundreds of people getting outside, using our parks and building a sense of community with each other. And that’s a good thing, because our neighborhoods and parks are safer when people take time to get out and enjoy them.”

Let’s create more dog parks

Howie Hanson responded by email: “Duluth’s dog parks were built and managed by volunteers. Used heavily by Duluthians, they draw additional visitors to our pet-friendly city. Just ask a hotel-motel operator. And let’s set the record straight: Dog parks aren’t taking money from Duluth children’s projects or our streets. People like to spend their time watching their dogs run and play at the off-leash dog parks. As mayor, I’ll support further volunteer-led efforts to build new off-leash dog parks in far-western Duluth and in yet-to-be-determined sites in Piedmont Heights, Duluth Heights or eastern Duluth. And we’ll be sure to add water features.”