"More and more dogs are living in the neighborhood than ever before," said city Councilman Bruce Kraus, who called the meeting, and who first suggested the project two years ago.
"This meeting is about raising awareness," he said.
City code states all dogs must be on leashes at all time, and prohibits them from playgrounds. An off-leash exercise area is the logical alternative, he said.
He plans to set up a city Facebook page on the issue even though one already exists that was established by a resident. An official Facebook page would help dispel rumors as only factual items would appear, he said.
"There is power in numbers," he said, as residents can tell the city the issue is very important "if it falls off the tracks."
The site, owned by the city, is located at the bottom of 18
th St. and across the railroad tracks, followed by a right turn into Riverfront Park.
Until recently, the area served as an encampment for transients and vagrants, thereby creating "a huge public safety concern," said Mr. Kraus.
Original plans called simply for a Steelworkers Sculpture in the park. Mr. Kraus said he realized the sculpture and off-leash area could co-exist there.
Current plans call for the dog park and sculpture to be adjacent to one another.
One "minor snag easily correctible," he said, is as greenspace is involved, the
project must go through the review process of the city's Art Commission.
The criteria include: obtaining approval of the sculpture and greenspace; revisiting the fence height; securing furniture approval; and preparing a planting plan for submission with the final plan.
The next Art Commission meeting is on May 25.
Mr. Kraus said he will contact the commission before then to make sure park plans meet the criteria.
While city funding for the dog park passed, nothing has yet been spent as the preparation thus far has all been done in-house.
About $68,000 of Neighborhoods Needs funds has been set aside for a fence and other items. In total, there is about $150,000 for materials.
Soil testing, and securing approvals, must occur before materials are purchased. Fencing will be the costliest, he said.
He said he would like the name on the legislation to read, "South Pittsburgh Off-Leash Exercise Area" to let residents know it is for everyone's use and not just for South Siders.
To a question about moving to a different location, Mr. Kraus said no, as it would be difficult to find comparable space in South Side.
An attendee commented that the sculpture, commissioned by Mayor Tom Murphy, was always planned for the site as it is the only zoning option.
To a question of what happens if owners do not clean up after their dogs, Mr. Kraus said he assumed Animal Control would monitor the area.
An attendee suggested a "doggy run" fundraiser for the project, to which Mr. Kraus said he would contact the city Law Department about the legalities.
To a question of whether water would be available for the dogs, he said he would prefer moving water, but has not yet explored the cost.
He would first like to have the dog park in operation, and then add amenities, he said.