University Lake Park is one of the most popular places where dogs can romp around off-leash in Anchorage, according to city park planner Steve Rafuse. For the last year, Rafuse has been getting input from user groups on what the future of the park should look like, as he puts together a master plan for the next ten years.

“Feedback was mixed,” said Rafuse. “I think a lot of folks really love the park as it was before it was an off-leash area and a lot of people love it as an off-leash area. So finding some sort of consensus and total agreement on what this park should be is pretty challenging.”

The Anchorage Assembly voted to make the park OK for dogs to be off-leash in 2003. Rafuse said changing that designation in the future was an option, but one which, at this time, isn’t being pursued.

“What we tried to do instead of eliminating off-leash usage here, which would be really contentious, is we tried to strike a balance so everybody can recreate at the park.”

That balance includes; things like better signs to show people where dogs can be off-leash and where they can’t, as well as moving some trails further from sensitive areas where birds nest and physically separating some areas where dogs and bikes intersect.

“It’s just separating those uses and not giving one priority over another,” said Rafuse. “Just separating them so they can function safely.”

The plan also calls for doubling parking space at the park and comes with a total price tag of over $800,000. Rafuse said that funding may not be available now, but there are some things the city could do fairly quickly that would cost much less.

The plan requires final approval from the city Planning and Zoning Commission, which will hold a public hearing. Rafuse said the date will most likely fall some time in November or December.