I am deeply disappointed by the recent editorial advocating for multiple dog parks in Jackson. The editorial board’s message to the concerned neighbors around the parks (and Wayne May Park in particular) is to heel and roll over. In a paper that is constantly reporting on stories about changing community character, I am surprised that the editors chose to ignore the history of the plans for Wayne May Park and the history of the May family’s intent for the park. I am also surprised the editors have failed to carefully study the proposed plans for Wayne May Park, what they entail and reflect on their long-term implications for public space in the community. With so much rapid development in East Jackson, how can we let this resource be “torn down” to pave the way for more development that would fundamentally alter the character of Wayne May Park?
Current plans for May Park get rid of the metal grain barn and Quonset hut, as well as the historic buck rail fence, to make way for a parking lot to serve a dog park, playground and tennis and pickle ball courts. How exactly does placing a dog park and tennis and pickle ball courts within a unique historic landscape preserve and maintain the ranching and agricultural aesthetic?
May Park isn’t like any other park. It was generously bargain-sold (i.e., donated) to the town at below market-rate by Wayne and Selma May for the benefit of the public. It was promised to the public long before dog parks were even a concept in small town planning, and that is why you won’t find any language in the deed regarding dog parks.
While the deed does not say anything about dog parks, we know about the May family’s intentions for the park from public input over the years by May family members like Rudy Sanford (Selma’s son who served on the Parks and Rec board) and Bonnie Budge (Wayne’s cousin), as well as from Mike Lance, the councilor who managed the donation of May Park on behalf of the town. These statements and letters are carefully documented on the Promised Parks website (PromisedParks.com). It is conclusive that a dog park is not what Wayne and Selma wanted in the park. Wayne and Selma wanted an open space that also preserves ranching and agricultural heritage (stated on the signs at the entrances to May Park).
To give you some more important history not in the editorial, in 2011 and 2014 a Master Plan for May Park was presented to the Town Council. Both times the idea of a dog park was brought to the table, and after a public planning process and public input the Town Council twice decided that a dog park would not be appropriate in May Park and directed Parks and Rec exclude it as a potential place to install a dog park.
However, when Steve Ashworth presented the history of the park plans to the Parks and Rec board in the July meeting that I attended, he discussed at length the Master Plan from 2004, and completely ignored and failed to mention the 2011 and 2014 Master Plans for Wayne May Park.
The editorial board was correct to cite traffic as a concern. The 2018 strategic plan referenced identifies May Park as a “neighborhood/community park” that should “intend to serve the surrounding neighborhood” and not draw visitors traveling great distances except for special events. With the large number of visitors passing through Jackson in the summer, and the 56,000 dogs that Sophie’s Place and the fairgrounds dog parks have served (according to PAWS’s website), how could May Park possibly remain a neighborhood park? It will become a destination park, not a neighborhood/community park, and the traffic impacts will be severe.
Stilson is a good idea for a dog park, as well as Tract 5 of Karns Meadows, as they are ideally located next to major roads with existing traffic and would not directly impact neighbors. Putting dog parks in every neighborhood to accommodate disobedient dog owners is simply not a good idea.
Dog parks are being promoted by the powers that be as “critical.” May Park as it functions now is critical, as it is one of the very few open, quiet, accessible, undeveloped spaces left within Jackson. It serves a range of neighbors from all socioeconomic backgrounds as well as groups within the larger Jackson community (just look at the senior citizens who practice tai chi under the pine trees for instance). Those who use the park go there simply because of the peace and quiet.
I used to watch Rudy Sanford every morning and evening feeding Yellowstone and Jack, the horses that he has been allowed to keep on the property as part of the agreement with the town. I even saw him riding Yellowstone a few times. It was quite a sight for someone in his 80s and is indicative of his rare combination of Western grit and grace. Rudy Sanford has acted as co-steward of the property that belonged to his parents and which we now all enjoy for over 30 years. Steve Ashworth has stated in public that Rudy is just an ordinary citizen with one opinion in this debate. I feel that it is one that carries weight and should be respected and honored, not trampled over, especially at this moment in his life.
Please, consider the importance of Wayne May Park, and all parks, as individual spaces with unique features that serve individual needs before you call to start homogenizing them with dog parks. Please, don’t ignore history when reporting on important issues. And please, remember and honor the generosity and vision of Jackson families like the Mays who have sacrificed financial gain and set aside open space for the benefit of us all.