TUCSON (KVOA) - For years, Tucson resident Joan Visconti has come to the North Sixth Avenue Dog Park for time to exercise and bond with her 9-year-old service dog, Bhakti.
She said the park has long been a special place with a sense of community feeling.
“For 15 years, we have had a community in here, I mean a great community, people gathered together," Visconti said. "We did fundraisers for the park itself to improve its ground when it needed work."
But that feeling has changed, she said since the City of Tucson updated the dog park with gravel in the Summer of 2019.
The park is now half gravel, in the front, and dried up grass in the back.
“It gets hot and people fall. It’s dangerous for the dogs if they jump and fall, they get injured," Visconti said. "They break nails in the gravel that can cause serious problems. They can get infections."
Charlene Kerr, another regular at the dog park, also has an issue with the gravel and said that it is clearly keeping people with mobility issues away.
“They put it in so deep it’s hard to walk on. Even my dogs will walk along the edges on the little cement meant to keep the gravel in," Kerr said. "I have seen a dramatic drop in the number of elderly people who do have difficulty walking sometimes, and several people who were in wheelchairs have stopped going.”
Visconti said she and a group of others made their concerns about the gravel known to the city's Parks Commission before the update was made.
She said they continued to voice their concerns after it was put in.
“Almost two years later, and the gravels still here," Visconti said. "We told the Park’s Commission it was against the law and they did nothing."
She got the Arizona Center for Disability Law involved, which sent a formal complaint to the city.
ACDL declined our request for an interview but sent the N4T Investigators the following statement:
“ACDL has contacted the city about improving the accessibility of city dog parks, and hopes to achieve a collaborative and favorable resolution for all those who use dog parks, and go one step further in improving the lives of people with disabilities in the community.”
News 4 Tucson went to the city and city Attorney Mike Rankin for answers. Rankin and a city spokesperson declined our request for an interview but Rankin sent us a letter the city sent in response to the ACDL.
The letter states that the city will work on making its dog parks more ADA accessible. It lists three main steps to do this.
- Step one is to replace the gate doorknobs at the North 6th Avenue Dog Park with lever handles.
- Step two is to hire an ADA specialist in the "next few weeks" to oversee all of its current and future plans for all of the city's dog parks.
- Step three states the city will close the 6th Avenue Dog Park for "4-6 weeks" while it reestablishes the grass area.
A city spokesperson said the city does not admit to violating any ADA laws but wants to go above and beyond to meet the needs of community members.
Joan Visconti said she is hopeful with what the city included in the letter, but if the city doesn't follow through within the next few months, she said she will file a federal complaint.
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