Off-leash dog park moves forward

June 3, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

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Newcastle City Council members voted unanimously to investigate possible solutions to the lack of an off-leash dog park in the city at their meeting May 18.

Councilwoman Lisa Jensen was not in attendance, making the vote 6-0.

The direction to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission to research the issue grew amid resident concerns about leash laws that will begin to be enforced in coming weeks.

Dogs must be on leashes within the city. But to date, city officials and police haven’t enforced those laws.

The announcement came in response to limited incidents of off-leash dogs at Lake Boren Park.

In coming weeks, more signs will be posted about the leash law and police were planning to begin enforcing it June 1. An owner caught with his or her dog off-leash can be fined up to $250.

More than 25 Newcastle residents attended the meeting to show support for a solution to the leash laws and lack of a dog park.

“I moved here from Germany three years ago,” said resident René Wagner, who owns a golden retriever named Teddy who uses the park. “I like the freedom I have here and I’d like to have that freedom for my dog as well. Every day for the last three years, I walk my dog in the park off-leash. I admit that.

“If it was up to me, I’d like to have the whole park be for dogs off leash, but that might be too radical.”

In all, nine residents spoke passionately about the need for a park that can accommodate all of residents, including the four-legged variety.

Several residents proposed a 1.4-acre, fenced dog park be added to the north end of the park, which would cost roughly $25,000. Organizer Jim Palzer said the group does have support and offers for funding lined up.

Adding a dog park wouldn’t interrupt even the busiest days at the park, Palzer said.

Other residents suggested setting certain hours in the park to allow owners to let their dogs off leash, while others simply voiced support for an off-leash dog park somewhere.

One of them was Kurt Hester, a former Newcastle resident who now lives in Renton, who said he supported finding a more permanent solution for dogs to use the park safely, as he still uses it to help train and exercise his German shorthair.

“We need a place like this, whether it’s Lake Boren Park or not. But we need something where we do not drive 20 minutes to get to Marymoor or to Luther Burbank,” he said.

Another resident, Anya Paperno, said if police wanted to begin enforcing park rules, it needed to enforce them equally.

“Unless you want to enforce all the rules, like skateboarders on the tennis courts, which happens, or the litter that is left,” don’t enforce the leash law or at least suspend the fee, she said.

The leash laws have been in existence for some time, council members said at the meeting. But several questioned the sudden enforcement and asked to revisit the city’s leash laws, their history and the reason for the fine at a future meeting, especially after several members admitted to allowing their own dogs off leash within the city.

“I’d like to bring it back, because it looks like we have $750 in fines just at this table,” Mayor John Dulcich said.

While residents indicated they would like the dog park idea expedited, so they may use facilities as early as late summer, council members said they will proceed so the process involves gathering community input and ensuring parks commission advisers have time to thoroughly research the ideas.

Councilman Rich Crispo said he also wanted caution taken when researching how to ensure the dog park is a safe environment.

“Thank the council for remanding our request to city parks,” Palzer said. “We want to move forward with this and do so in a reasonable way, without throwing a fit or throwing our weight around.

“We really look forward to working with the commission and we do have resources, like an engineer and architect and people ready to help.”

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Comments

13 Responses to “Off-leash dog park moves forward”

  1. Robin Bentley on June 3rd, 2010 6:44 pm

    It is wonderful to be able to let water dogs have access to the water there. As far as I know they aren’t hurting anyone, and they get so much out of it. Many older dogs are arthritic and the only way they can safely exercise is by low-impact means, like swimming.

  2. Susan Wright on June 3rd, 2010 10:22 pm

    My two rescue dogs, Bula and Theo, find no greater joy than visiting Lake Boren Park. Though I live in the Lakemont/Montreux area, I prefer to drive the extra miles (past Lewis Creek Park) as often as possible so that they can run freely in the grass. Neither of my dogs are aggressive and we all appreciate the other friendly humans and dogs we meet there. Because the park brings me to Newcastle, I visit the QFC, Safeway, pet shop, drugstore, Subway, Starbucks, fruit & vegetable stand, and the Mexican and Chinese restaurants. I am happy to support Newcastle businesses because I am so grateful for this park. I hope a positive resolution will be forthcoming and would also suggest that the council look into having a “dog walking” type fundraiser. I know lots of us would participate, especially my 2 little guys!

  3. Tricia Richards on June 4th, 2010 7:58 am

    We would love Newcastle to stipulate some part of Lake Boren as an off-leash dog park. We are frequent users of Lake Boren throughout the year and absolutely love it. You are doing a fabulous job of keeping Lake Boren a wonderful place. Thank you and congratulations.

  4. Jim Palzer - Newcastle on June 4th, 2010 2:21 pm

    Lake Boren Park’s proposed off-leash dog area makes sense.

    * It’s central to city core, population center and multi-family zones.
    * It’s “walk to” friendly which means less automobiles on the road.
    * It’s a community gathering place for Newcastle residents with a common interest.
    * It allows park visitors to lawfully allow their dogs off-leash.
    * It reduces vehicle trips to other off-leash parks on the Eastside.
    * It does not interfere with the “Lake Boren Park Master Plan”
    * It’s an amenity that will to add to park versatility.
    * It offers shared open space for Newcastle residents with small or no yards.
    * It’s within an existing ADA accessible route.
    * Off-leash play promotes better social skills for dogs, a community benefit.
    * Dogs think they are people and want a place for un-encumbered play dates.

    If you would like to be on our e-mail list for future updates related to the potential dog park, please e-mail your first and last name, phone number and e-mail address to jimpalzer@yahoo.com

    Also, think about joining “Dog Lovers in Newcastle” on facebook.

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=122210081123610

  5. Carolyn Agacinski on June 4th, 2010 2:41 pm

    I sincerely appreciate the quick approach on finding a ideal solution for our four-legged friends and their human companions at Lake Boren Park by the Newcastle City Council. Thank you to everyone who is working in such a positive manner for something that matters to so many of us.

  6. Connie Wong on June 4th, 2010 3:48 pm

    Thank you, Jim, for doing such an amazing job leading the Off-Leash Area Proposal. I understand that this is not going to happen over night. I do hope that it will move along smoothly.

    Meanwhile, I strongly suggest the City Council to consider offering at least Off-Leash Hours immediately. How about before 9am and after 7pm? Our four-legged friends really need to have the exercises and social activities. With them, they are angels! Without them, they can be devils!

  7. Craig Proctor on June 4th, 2010 5:06 pm

    I’ve been taking Bo to LBP almost daily for the past four years since I adopted him. We like the May Creek Trail, but LBP has introduced us both to many new friends. Spending time there is where he gets out the majority of his energy and where we do the majority of our socializing. Most of the dog owners we know are conscientious, keep watch and control of their dog(s) and pick up after them. Some of us keep watch on the other dogs also when there are times the owner is distracted.

    $25,000 is probably not a lot of money for the proposed off-leash changes to the park; but Medina did it for far less without changing the look of the park.

    After years of doing nothing about off-leash dogs at LBP and then suddenly deciding to enforce and fine, I would like to see Newcastle postpone the leash enforcement at LBP while the off-leash area is being addressed.

  8. Chris Ross on June 4th, 2010 10:52 pm

    Thank you city council .. I’m especially a fan of the idea put forth by one council member, that perhaps the north loop of the park could be relegated as off-leash. For the most part children are at the other end, where the playground is. We walk throughout the whole park but it’s not that big of a deal to leash the pup when in that section if it’s determined the rule needs to stay. (I still have my fingers crossed we’ll progress beyond that archaic rule, lol).

  9. Brooke Hughes on June 6th, 2010 10:49 am

    The vast majority of owners who allow their dogs to be off-leash have well-trained, socialized dogs. If someone has a dog that causes damage or hurts someone, then that owner should be penalized but it doesn’t seem right to penalized everyone. Having an off-leash area would be nice, but only if it is a decent size. So many of these areas tend to be small and not grassy, and do not provide to same sort of room to play fetch and walk with the owner. Also I do think its nice for the water dogs to have access to the lake. It makes sense to keep dogs out of the play area for children, but it seems that so many of the people who enjoy the park, are doing so with their dogs, and responsible dog owners should be allowed to enjoy the park as long as they are not bothering others.

  10. Lisa on June 6th, 2010 12:43 pm

    I thing an off leash park at Lake Boren is a great idea. The Northend of the park is hardly used by anyone, except people with dogs.
    I see quite a few people in newcastle with dogs who are are responsible dog owners and would like a place to let their dogs run and play. I personally would like to used Lake Boren that is in walking distance, than driving to another area.
    Thank you for seriously consider an OFF LEASH AREA.

  11. Donny McNair on June 6th, 2010 9:41 pm

    It is so wonderful to have a place that is close to home that we humans and dogs all love.
    Let’s have our community park be for everyone!
    Humans, kids and dog!

  12. Linda Sholand on June 7th, 2010 9:38 am

    I have “joint custody” of my two granddogs as they live with my son and his family but I take them for walks or hikes almost every Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Maggie and Sara are labs and Lake Boren Park (LBP) has always been our park to go to until this “on-leash / off-leash” problem. I enjoy the park because it’s clean, friendly and has water access for my granddogs. If you have a lab, you want to have water access!

    When I go to the park I watch ahead of me and if someone comes towards with their dog on a leash, I put mine on leash or take them to another section of the park, if I notice someone looking nervous, I put my two on leash and if I notice anyone playing in or near the water where I take my dogs to throw their balls, I turn around and take them home. Like all responsible, courteous and respectful dog owners, I ALWAYS clean up after my dogs. I’m aware there are people who are afraid of dogs or who just don’t like dogs and I respect their feelings but I haven’t been to the park since I heard about the complaints of dogs being off-leash and people possibly being ticketed and I really miss it!!

    I’ve always thought that parks were for everyone to use and enjoy. Other than just saying all dogs have to be on-leash, there has to be another solution. It seems to me that the easiest solution is to put up signage at the north end of the park stating that dogs are allowed off-leash in that area. I honestly don’t see what the issue would be with that solution. If people don’t like dogs or are afraid of them, they would know to stay on the upper path, away from any off-leash dogs. If Newcastle has enough money to spend on signs that you can hardly read, then surely it has money to put up a few signs on the north end of LBP which would allow everyone to use and enjoy LBP, one of the city’s gems.

  13. Connie Wong on June 15th, 2010 7:59 am

    Linda, I so agree with you. I too have been avoiding taking my dog to Lake Boren Park except early morning hours the last month. I have been driving to Robinswood almost daily even when I have no errands taking me to Bellevue. I understand that any long term improvement will take time. I hope that the city can have some temporary actions like having off leash hours or putting up signs to allow off-leash dogs in a certain area. It is sad that we live a block away from this beautiful park but can’t really enjoy it.

    If the city can spend lot of money on Coal Creek Parkway ribbon cutting ceremony or ugly new signage residents complained about, the city might want to consider spending it on something the residents can really benefit from.

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