City investigates proposal to install off-leash dog park

May 19, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

UPDATED – 2:24 p.m. May 19, 2010

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 Tuesday night.

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 over leash laws that will begin to be enforced in coming weeks.

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

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

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

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 they do have support and offers for funding lined up.

That suggestion 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 the city 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. 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.”

Information from a previous Newcastle News story, written by Tim Pfarr, was used in this report.

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One Response to “City investigates proposal to install off-leash dog park”

  1. Chuck on May 24th, 2010 10:32 am

    I agree that Newcastle needs an off-leash area. But I must say, what is happening at Lake Boren is much more than “limited incidents” of off-leash dogs. Off-leash is the new normal. I can’t walk, bike, or play with my kids in the park without encountering off-leash dogs.

    The beauty of a designated off-leash area is that you expect to be greeted by dogs and interact with them, regardless of their demeanor. At a park Lake Boren though, you do not expect to encounter roaming dogs, nor to worry about whether they will knock-over your toddlers or otherwise subject you to their wanderings.

    I’m fine giving up a portion of the park for dogs, but a $25k fence does not make a responsible dog park. Off-leash proponents should take a lesson from the Marymoor S.O.D.A. (serve our dog area) group. They are organized, funded, and focused on ensuring that the environmental impact of dog activity is minimized (and that the dog poop is cleaned-up).

    I wonder how many of the Lake Boren park rule-breakers are willing to spend the time, effort, and money necessary to appropriately manage an off-leash area. It’s easy to say that it’s a City issue to solve, quite another to volunteer.

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