New Ulm to designate three more leash-free zones

NEW ULM — The City of New Ulm is preparing to designate up to three additional leash-free spaces for dogs.

The Park and Recreation staff is in the process of reviewing all parks in New Ulm that are suitable for dogs to run off leash. Parks Director Tom Schmitz said in addition to the review of parks, a second group of staff is reviewing all other municipal property that could be made into a leash-less park.

“It is a much more complex review process than many realize,” Schmitz said.

Staff will need to consider whether to simply designate a place for dogs to run free or if a new dog park should be established.

Minnecon has been suggested as a potential leash-free park. Some individuals already run dogs at this park, but the location is adjacent to wildlife locations. Schmitz said the staff does not want to designate a location that could be dangerous to wild animals.

This leads to the question of fencing. The current dog park on the south end of German Park is fenced in, but a new dog park does not necessarily need a fence. A fence would increase safety for the dogs, but would come at a greater cost.

Another option is to expand the current dog park to allow for additional space. Since the dog park was established, it has proven very popular; however the location of the park is not convenient for all dog owners. For this reason it was suggested any newly designated dog parks be located on the opposite side of the city.

The decision to designate leash-free spaces for dogs came in response the city council’s vote to amend the current leash ordinance. Since 2004, leashes have been mandatory only for the walking path. There is no leash requirement for any other public spaces in New Ulm. Last Tuesday, the council voted to amend the ordinance to require pets be leashed in public spaces, with the exception of the dog park. During the same vote, the council authorized staff to designate up to three additional spaces in the city for dogs to run off leash.

City Attorney Roger Hippert said the leash amendment would need to return to later council meeting, at which time the locations of new leash-free zones could be added to the ordinance.

Schmitz said the goal of staff was to finish their park and municipal property review and present a list of possible leash-free locations for the Park and Recreation Commission to consider at the Feb. 12 meeting. The commissioners’ recommendation will be presented to the city council for final recommendation.

Public input on which locations should be designated leash-free is welcome. Schmitz said members of the public can contact the Parks Department directly with their opinions or give their input during the Parks Commission meeting next month.