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The City Journals

Evaluating locations for an off-leash dog park in Cottonwood Heights

May 29, 2019 01:57PM ● By Cassie Goff

Off-leash dog parks provide areas for dogs, and humans, to exercise. (Andy Hulka/Cottonwood Heights)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

A master’s thesis project could be just what Cottonwood Heights needs to begin planning for an off-leash dog park. Associate Planner Andy Hulka has submitted his Off-Leash Dog Park Plan, where specific sites within the city have been evaluated for potential off-leash dog park implementation. His analysis, developed for his master’s professional project through the University of Utah, could help in the city’s Dog Park Subcommittee of the Parks, Trails & Open Space Committee, as well as the city council’s, decision making. 

Hulka’s main goal in developing his Off-Leash Dog Park Plan was to “establish guidelines for the future development of an off-leash dog park.” Those guidelines were informed by assessing community preferences and establishing specific criteria for the evaluation of potential sites. Ultimately, Hulka hopes to provide recommendations to the city staff, relevant committees, and city council as they deliberate options for a future city dog park. 

One hundred and twelve parcels of land were selected to evaluate for a potential off-leash dog park. These parcels were evaluated based on objective criteria for land use, zoning, environmental factors, size, site amenities and potential negative characteristics. The five areas that were evaluated as the highest priority were Crestwood Park (1673 E. Siesta Dr.), Mill Hollow Park (2850 E. Hollow Mill Dr.), Antczak Park (1850 E. 7200 S.), Lab Alive, alternatively known as the Swamp Lot (8101 S. 3500 E.) and Golden Hills Park (8295 S. Wasatch Blvd.).  

The top five locations listed in Hulka’s Off-Leash Dog Park Plan align with Salt Lake County’s Off-Leash Dog Park Master Plan. Salt Lake County adopted their own master plan in 2008, which included the Lab Alive/Swamp Lot area as an off-leash dog park. In 2018, Salt Lake County updated that master plan, evaluating Crestwood Park as an off-leash dog park area as well. 

In addition to meeting with Salt Lake County about their Off-Leash Dog Park Master Plan, city staff members have held meetings with the Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area, Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Service Area, and Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation. 

Five locations within the city have been evaluated as the top priorities for an off-leash dog park. (Andy Hulka/Cottonwood Heights)


Having a dog park within the city has been a topic of interest for years. In 2016, resident Stephanie Gelman and other concerned residents met with the Cottonwood Heights City Council and Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation department to discuss potential options (for more information, visit “Efforts to Create An Off-Leash Dog Park in Cottonwood Heights”). 

In 2016, the city conducted an official citizen survey to measure opinion about a multitude of topics. One finding from that survey was that residents care deeply about city parks and open spaces, so much so that they would be willing to pay more taxes if they knew the money was being allocated for open spaces. In that survey, many residents mentioned dog parks. 

“A dedicated unleash dog park is needed to promote exercise and community engagement,” said an anonymous resident respondent. 

A few years later, in 2018, when the Parks, Trails & Open Space Committee was formed, residents requested a Dog Parks Subcommittee be created. After a few months of gaining support and volunteers, that subcommittee was created in December. 

Around the same time, Hulka was asking for topic suggestions for his thesis project. Knowing of the resident interest described above, both Mayor Mike Peterson and Councilmember Tali Bruce suggested that Hulka dig into dog parks for his project. 

Even though there are many benefits to an off-leash dog park — including acting as a gathering place, community building, dog socialization, exercise and less off-leash dogs in on-leash parks — many city residents have voiced their opposition with concerns of noise, smell, overuse of facilities and cost of maintenance to the park. 

Within the city, there are 1,820 active pet licenses, as reported by Cottonwood Heights. However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38% of households in the U.S. own dogs, meaning there could be up to 7,500 dogs within the city. 

Currently, dogs are allowed on-leash in all city parks. However, many of these parks “have become informal off-leash areas, which presents an enforcement problem for the city’s animal control officers,” Hulka states. 

Hulka is preparing to graduate from the University of Utah with a Master’s Degree of cCity Metropolitan Planning (MCMP).