MANKATO — Local dogs will have a lot of room to run, unleashed, and mountain bikers will have their own no-dogs-allowed trails in Kiwanis Park under a peace agreement negotiated by Mankato Parks Supt. Mark McQuillan.
The two groups had been in conflict since the local mountain bike club added trails to the park along the Minnesota River just north of the Highway 14/Highway 169 interchange. Dog owners, who have had fenced areas at the park for several years, had developed a strong sense of ownership of the park and several were taking their pooches on unleashed walks on a wood-chip trail leading to the river.
Bikers were displeased that dog owners were violating city ordinances by failing to leash their dogs, some of which enjoyed chasing bikes, when outside the fenced in portion of the park.
"If there's consensus and agreement here that is is a plausible plan we all can agree with, we'll take it to the council," McQuillan said, predicting the Mankato City Council will make a decision at its Feb. 24 meeting.
And there seemed to be consensus Thursday with both sides applauding McQuillan's work at finding a compromise.
"I think this looks like a great solution," said Lucas Raatz, president of Mankato Area Mountain Bikers club.
Under the plan, the current mountain bike trails — constructed by the club — will continue and signs will be erected making clear that dogs, whether leashed or unleashed, are prohibited. The wood-chip trail and potential future trails to the northern boundary of the park will be open to unleashed dogs, bird-watchers, hikers, snow-shoers and others — as long as they're not riding a bike.
The bikers probably get a little more acreage under the plan, but the dog folks get more riverside land.
The plan was so well-received that the majority of people on both sides suggested McQuillan drop his plan to build separate-but-equal parking lots so that bikers and dog owners wouldn't have to mix even when loading and unloading their vehicles.