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Should Auditorium Shores Move the Off-Leash Area for Dogs?

Update: A final public meeting on proposed changes to Auditorium Shores takes place tonight. And the plans have some dog lovers howling.

With a $3.5 million donation, the city plans to realign the hike and bike trail, put in new turf grass and redesign the off-leash area for dogs – moving it along the shoreline and adding a series of “dog launches” into Lady Bird Lake, but shrinking it in the process.

The donation comes from C3 Presents, the entertainment company that puts on the ACL Music Festival and the Austin Food and Wine Festival. (Its 2012 edition of the Food and Wine Fest, held at Auditorium Shores, was marred by dust.)

Dog owners seem to be the most concerned about the proposed changes. They want to make sure they’ll have enough room and that the dedicated space won’t be unduly affected by special events.

“The proposed new ‘shoreline’ play area will significantly improve trail safety, yet it will not efficiently and safely accommodate all dogs and their owner/handlers who frequent the park during peak attendance,” writes Friends of Austin Dog Parks, a group that advocates for off-leash park space. “Healthy off-leash areas are designed for movement, not confinement.”

The project will close portions of the park for about a year. Austinites can weigh in on the proposal tonight at 6:30 p.m., at the Dougherty Arts Center.

Original story (Sept.  27): Auditorium Shores is home to a variety of beloved festivals and sees hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists each day. That’s taken a toll on the facilities, and the city is on the cusp of beginning a year-long improvement project.

Among the planned amenities is the creation of a new off-leash dog park. Those taking the trails through Auditorium Shores might understandably believe one already exists, but that actually isn’t the case and it’s been the cause of some consternation.

“An inherent problem to the current relationship there is that dogs and pedestrians and cyclists are oftentimes in conflict because they are crossing paths,” says Marty Stump of the Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Along with irrigation and new turf grass for the fields, the plan calls for adjusting the trail so dogs headed for a dip in the lake don’t get in the way. It even adds a series of "dog launches" for pets looking to dip in Lady Bird Lake.

Credit City of Austin

Proposed amenities for the off-leash area will be discussed at a public forum tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the Dougherty Arts Center on Barton Springs.

The planned improvements at Auditorium Shores will cost about $3.5 million and close the area to events during 2014. However, the hike and bike trail will remain open throughout the process.

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