Jennifer Bjergaard, a resident of the Beltrami neighborhood, calls the empty plot of land near the intersection of I-35W and Hennepin Avenue an “eyesore.”
The plot, owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, has been unused for years. But now, the Beltrami Neighborhood Council is seeking to transform an empty space into a dog park.
“[We want] to convert an eyesore into an asset,” Bjergaard said.
If built, it will be the closest dog park for residents living in the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods, as well as the University students living on campus. Currently, the closest is the Franklin Terrace Dog Park across the Mississippi River.
Bjergaard said the proposed park would provide a 3.2-acre fenced space for east Minneapolis residents and would also contain unique features like separate areas for dogs less than 10 lbs. and dogs that are larger.
“If your dog runs without a leash … good luck,” Bjergaard said.
The council submitted a proposal to MnDOT requesting to use the land right before the government shutdown. MnDOT has yet to reply, said Nancy Przymus, head of the BNC’s board of directors.
The park also requires $18,000 to build. In February, Bjergaard and other neighbors created a committee dedicated to raising the funds for planning and building the park, but only managed to raise $2,000.
“We have a long ways to go,” Bjergaard said.
The committee is a grassroots organization. Its members are Beltrami residents, volunteering their time for the project.
“Many are balancing jobs,” Bjergaard said.
The idea has the strong support of leaders in the Beltrami neighborhood, said Przymus, who thinks the park can also have a positive effect on property value in the area.
“A dog park would allow people to get to know each other, and would increase the likelihood of someone buying a home in Beltrami,” Przymus said.
She said there have been many other proposals for the plot, like for a ramp to I-35W.
Arlene Zamora, is a member of the BNC who has lived in Beltrami for 16 years and, like Bjergaard, thinks the empty space is an eyesore. She thinks the dog park “is a wonderful idea” and has positive potential for the neighborhood.
Zamora believes the dog park will “beautify” the neighborhood.
To raise funds, the committee will hold an event Sept. 17 at the Beltrami Park. The committee has also spread information about its cause by using Facebook, friends, family members and word-of-mouth.