There were few empty seats at city hall last week for the Vincent Road landfill community meeting.
But by a show of hands, everyone in attendance was there to consider the site as an off-leash dog park.
After an almost three-year-long debate, city staff called the meeting to decipher what questions and suggestions the public had toward redeveloping the site.
“It is available for public use under certain perimeters, and I think that is the important thing for people here tonight to understand,” said Morgan Smith, deputy city manager.
“We are interested in starting a conversation on what kinds of activities you would like to see out there.”
Planning Director Kathy Cook led the discussion and intended on breaking the meeting’s turnout into small groups to discuss how the city should redevelop the site.
However, it was no surprise when she asked for a show of hands and the entire room agreed on a single option: an off-leash dog park. This instead gave the floor to an open discussion.
Cook wrote down questions asked by participants to review with city staff.
The first question was the one on everyone’s mind: Is the site still at toxic levels?
Landfill activities took place on the site from 1946 to 1975. For many years after, the site stood stagnant until it was classified as a Class One contaminated site. State intervention in the ’90s has since put it through several phases of cleanup.
Those in attendance raised concern that the rainy season may saturate the 2-foot landfill cap, and if dog owners should worry about their pets digging, drinking from or playing in puddles.
Smith responded to the question by clarifying that the city’s five-year report is still under review by the Department of Ecology.
Nonetheless, Cook relayed that most of the requirements the landfill would need to operate under to become a dog park align with ongoing Ecology and Kitsap Public Health District procedures.
The city would have to document the control of potential hazards and protection of stormwater structures, ensure any enclosed structures would be protected from methane gas and demonstrate that methane gas levels are below explosive limits, provide assurance that the project would comply with Ecology’s final cleanup action plan and document inspections of the site conditions and landfill cap.
Smith further explained that the city has received feedback from the regulatory agencies that the door has opened at this point to discuss a possible dog park.
The Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District has been actively working on locating an area for a possible dog park since 2010 with the Dog Area Working Group, a citizen organization prompted by the parks district to recommend solutions and suggestions.
“(The Vincent Road property) was the single largest place that we could find that we could put a dedicated off-leash dog area that doesn’t take an existing use away from other patrons,” said Kirk Robinson, commissioner for the parks district.
The parks district has allocated approximately $35,000 to developing a dog park. The allocation is not specific to the Vincent Road property, explained Robinson.
However, he said, the site has become the ideal location since it offers a sizable area for dogs while at the same time not taking anything away from current parks district properties.
Once the parks district gets into the design phase of the dog park, said Robinson, it will look into what other cities have done. This would include considering a variety of surface material like mulch to mitigate the likely digging and playing in puddles.
“If we build it, the hope is, they will come,” Robinson said.