Vernon council barked at a staff recommendation to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars for refurbishing Marshall Field to provide a permanent off-leash area for dogs.
The recommendation suggested seven steps to establish a permanent off-leash area within Marshall Field that includes protecting sensitive habitat and addressing Vernon Creek erosion and safety concerns.
The first step is designing a new layout of the soccer fields – including adding a sixth field to the facility – and parking to determine the optimal alignment of a four-foot high chain link fence to separate a permanent off-leash area from all playing fields and improve fields conditions.
There is also a call to develop a master plan for 2021 that includes installing a playground at the facility.
Staff, which was asked by council to provide a report on a fence along with an environmental report, also recommended authorizing a budget of $240,000 to build a fence to separate the playing fields, re-route parts of the footpaths, plant a vegetative buffer, remove access between the ponds at Lakers Disc Golf, re-route the loop trail near Lakers and initiate the renewal agreement to protect the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad within the city.
Two delegations appeared before council in January and February, one from dog owners, the other from Vernon Soccer.
“We had two groups, two presentations. One group was the biggest one I’ve ever seen (dog owners) and their solution was to build a fence,” said Coun. Scott Anderson. “There was a counter presentation and their solution was to build a fence. Council asked for a fence. Staff comes back with a report and environmental review and now we’re looking at a quarter million (dollars). All we wanted was a fence.”
City manager of long-range planning and sustainability Laurie Cordell told council staff looked at the impacts of not just the fence but the use of the land.
“By looking at the impacts, we took more of a holistic perspective,” said Cordell. “And we figured if we’re going to be putting a fence in, it’s time to address some of the environmental concerns in the area, the safety concerns, especially if the use is going to intensify because of the fence.”
Coun. Brian Quiring said the situation has become comical.
“This is getting crazy,” he said. “We’ve gone from building a fence to spending a quarter-million in a report. Can’t we go back to building a fence for 50 grand? We don’t have $240,000.”
Anderson motioned to build just the fence now, and have the rest of the recommendation looked at at another time. Administrator Will Pearce advised council to have staff bring back a report and a budget on a fence-only for its next meeting, July 8.
The amended motion was unanimously supported, as was Coun. Akbal Mund’s motion to also put in some kind of protection at the same time around the two ponds in the area for the species of spadefoot toad.