Converting Buehler Park into a dog park has been on the city of Rolla's hidden agenda since 2007 when they were enjoined by the Courts from taking any “action that is inconsistent with [Buehler Park's] use as a public park.” The ink on the injunction was barely dry when city administrator, John Butz, made his first (informal) pitch for converting Buehler Park to a dog park. Over the following nine years, John Butz and various members of the city council have kept the dog-park suggestion alive.
At the April 7, 2014 meeting of the Rolla City Council, council-member (now mayor) Louis Magdits, asked John Butz whether the city has underutilized parkland that could be used for an animal shelter. Butz responds that "Buehler Park might make a terrific location for something like that" (No one mentions that Buehler Park is not underutilized.) (4/7/14 Rolla City Council meeting 46:15-47:30)
In an April 14 email exchange with Tom Sager, Butz writes, "Buehler Park might make a great location for the new Animal Shelter," "Could possibly tie in with a bit of a 'dog park facility'" and "Personally I donít necessarily see a publicly run animal shelter as being an inconsistent use as a public park. " (Butz-Sager-Correspondance_041414)
At the May 5 Council meeting, council member Sue Eudaly proposes that Buehler Park not be considered as a location for the new Rolla animal shelter. Motion dies for lack of second. (5/5/14 Rolla City Council meeting 19:15-22:45)
July 18, 2016: Kent Bagnall, proprietor of Kent Jewelry and Crystal Watson representing Royal Canin USA make a formal proposal to the Rolla City Council to build a dog-park in Buehler Park. Proposal would render half of the available space in Buehler Park unusable for traditional purposes and require that two of the three remaining play structures in Buehler park be removed. Bagnall and Watson present a petition for a dog-park that does not mention Buehler Park as the proposed location to the Rolla City Council. (7/18/16 Rolla City Council meeting 25:50-43:38)
At same meeting Tom Sager spoke out against the proposal during citizen comment period, pointing out that the city is "enjoined from taking action that is inconsistent with [Buehler Park's] use as a public park" and that public means people, not just dogs and their owners. He also points out that their are many other locations in Rolla more suitable for a dog-park. Questions and comments from council members after Sager's presentation imply that council is overwhelmingly in favor of the Bagnall/Watson proposal. (7/18/16 Rolla City Council meeting 1:22:40-1:38:33)
July - Oct. 2016
Numerous letters and articles written in opposition to putting a dog-park in Buehler Park, such as this one. (see upper-left-hand column of Buehler Park website for others)
Oct. 26: In spite of numerous requests asking Bagnall and Watson to rewrite their dog-park proposal suggesting a location other than Buehler park, Bagnall and Watson present same proposal to the Rolla Parks Advisory Commission. Sager also makes presentation suggesting other locations for a dog-park. Parks Commission takes no action.
Dec. 2016 - Feb. 2017
At the Dec. 19 Rolla City Council meeting, Mayor Lou Magdits announced that the city had purchased five acres adjacent to the two acres that the City already owned on Lions Club Drive between the Rolla Rural Fire Dept. and Hwy 72. Council was asked to consider this land as the location for the new Rolla Animal Shelter that was formerly proposed to be built in Buehler Park.
City Administrator, John Butz, pointed out that although their was room enough for both a dog-park and an animal shelter on this land, Buehler Park was still under consideration as a location for a dog-park. (12/19/16 Rolla City Council meeting)
At its Jan. 3, 2017 meeting, the Rolla City Council chose to designate the newly purchased land on Lions Club Drive as the site for Rolla's new animal shelter. (1/3/17 Rolla City Council meeting) No mention was made of the dog-park or its location.
The Rolla Parks Advisory Commission (Park Board) met on Jan. 25. Mayor Lou Magdits presented a draft of a Buehler Park Master Plan.
The highlights are:
1. A dog-park, scaled down considerably from the Bagnall-Watson presentation, but still including almost all of the meadow area and some of the wooded area.
This draft master plan was presented to the public for comment at the Rolla Parks and Recreation Department open house on Tue. Feb. 28. In informal voting a dog-park with no specific location mentioned topped the list. 36 comments were received in reference to a dog-park. 26 said not in Buehler Park. Three said in Buehler Park. Seven said not with Proposition P money. This was discussed at the following meeting of the Rolla Parks Advisory Commission on March 22.
2. The addition of land that is now Kingshighway which is expected to be freed up with completion of the Highway 72 extension from Highway 63 to the 184 interchange off of I-44.
3. New bathrooms, new water fountain and new playground equipment for Buehler Park.
At the April meeting of the Park Board, a new Buehler Park draft master plan was presented. It included a dog-park of around 1/2 acre, entirely within the meadow area. In June the location of the new play area was revised. The new playground was moved to not overlap the existing stegosaurus play structure and was reduced in size from 60' by 80' to 40' by 60'. Otherwise the master plan appears to have been left unchanged.
At a public hearing before the Rolla City Council in June, seven citizens testified against building a dog-park in Buehler Park. The Chamber of Commerce, Royal Canin Pet Food and Kent Bagnall, owner of Kent Jewelry in Rolla testified in favor of building a dog-park in Buehler Park. Commercial interests won out, and in July the Rolla City Council adopted the draft master plan as presented.
This battle is not over. More will be added later.