Rochester dog park proposal gets room to run

Park Board asks staff to take options to residents near Kutzky and Cook parks to help determine ideal location for park space dedicated to dogs.

Gabe Below, of Rochester, plays with his dog, Thor, a St. Bernard mix, on April 13, 2021, at the Jean and Carl Frank Canine Park in Rochester. The Rochester Park Board asked parks staff to talk to neighbors of potential locations for a smaller dog park in either Kutzky Park or Cook Park.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER — Up to $30,000 is slated to create a new small-scale dog park, with a pending decision on an actual location.

The Rochester Park Board is backing the creation of a 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot park in Cook or Kutzky parks, but members left the final decision in the hands of parks staff.

“I really, really want the community to get involved in the decision,” Park Board member Angela Gupta said of deciding between the two parks.

The idea of adding a dog park at Cook Park was initiated by Abe Sauer, owner of the nearby Old Abe & Co. coffeeshop.

“I brought up the Cook one originally several years ago, because it was a park that had a lot,” he said. “It was one of the few near-downtown spaces where (development) activity was starting to happen that had enough green space.”


He said the goal is to provide smaller, community spaces for nearby dog owners to meet and interact, as opposed to the city’s two large-scale parks.

“It’s a community-building endeavor that parks can help the city do,” he said, adding that he’s discussed the concept with community members who have indicated they’d be willing to provide financial support for the project.

Preliminary cost estimates for the smaller proposed parks range from approximately $19,000 in one of two locations in Kutzky Park to $30,000 in one of two potential Cook Park locations.

“These are pretty basic dog parks,” Rochester Parks and Forestry Division Head Mike Nigbur said, pointing out the cost is related to fencing and gates, adding access points for maintenance efforts and installing trash receptacles and portable toilets.

The estimated costs do not include adding water service to the sites, which could be considered at a later date.

Funding for the new dog park would come from a portion of $50,000 reserved from property tax funds collected in 2021. Any remaining funds are expected to be used to replace the city’s Rec Center marquee, which is estimated to cost $52,000.

Nigbur said the timeline for the project is uncertain, since Park Board members directed staff to hold community engagement meetings to discuss the options before deciding which location should move forward.

He pointed to the potential for moving faster with a dog park on the west side of Silver Lake Park, which is already targeted to include a dog park as the result of a long-term plan adopted last year. While in the plan, the proposed dog facility is not included in the first phase of park updates.


In addition to the potential for smaller parks, the city already has plans to create a larger dog park near the city’s Rec Center and fourth large park in an undetermined part of the city.

Dog parks

Rochester has two existing large-scale dog parks:

  • Jean & Carl Frank Canine Park: 1839 Pinewood Road SE
  • River Road Park: 6253 West River Road NW

Rules for the off-leash areas in the parks are:

  • Pick up after your dog. Owners must possess a cleanup device at all times.
  • Dogs must arrive and leave on a leash.
  • Dogs must be properly tagged and vaccinated.
  • Owners must be in verbal control and within your sight of their dogs at all times.  
  • Owners are liable for damage or injury inflicted by their dogs.
  • Dogs in heat are not allowed.
  • Owners must prevent aggressive behavior, biting, fighting and loud excessive barking.

What happened: The Rochester Park Board asked parks staff to work with neighbors of Kutzky and Cook parks to detemine the best location for a proposed small-scale dog park.

Why does this matter: The city has two larger dog parks, but the proposal create an opportunity to test the development of a large, neighborhood orientated dog park.

What's next: Parks staff will work to schedule community meetings for neighbors of the proposed park sites.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or
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