MANKATO — Dogs are prohibited in roughly half of Mankato's Kiwanis Recreation Area and bikes are banned in the other half under a plan approved by the City Council Monday night, a plan expected to bring peace after months of sometimes tense conflict between the two user groups.
Leaders of both groups met in January with Parks Supt. Mark McQuillan to seek a compromise after the addition of mountain bike trails generated resentment from some dog owners, who felt a strong sense of ownership of the park between Highway 169 and the Minnesota River on Mankato's north side.
In the end, dog walkers and bike riders came together by agreeing to keep their distance in the 100 acre park. Under the plan, leashed dogs and bikers will share the paved trail, but dogs — leashed or not — will be prohibited on the mountain bike trails on the south side of the park. The plan also establishes a no-bikes zone on the north side, where a current wood chip trail along the river and future wood chip trails will — for the first time — be legally open to unleashed dogs.
Monday's council meeting brought a large contingent from both sides, but the majority of those who spoke were complimentary of the compromise and ready to put the conflict in the past.
"We're fighting over a sandbox," said biker Greg Lessard.
Lessard suggested a long list of proposed rules for the park could be replaced by one.
"Start being nice to each and showing proper etiquette," he suggested.
But a suggestion that such an approach would allow dogs and bikes to harmoniously share all parts of the park was generally rejected.
Brian Guess of Mankato said a significant buffer zone between the two uses was wise because not all people are going to practice proper park etiquette.