Opponents decry off-leash park idea

"At this week's city-sponsored meeting on off-leash parks, Bob Roper distributed photos he says show the destruction dogs are causing at Volunteer and Magnuson parks in Seattle.The photos illustrate how heavy use of an off-leash park can turn grassy fields into barren wastelands that become mud holes in the rainy season, he said.This, Roper said, is what we have to look forward to in Federal Way.Roper was among the half-dozen people who spoke against the idea of the city creating an off-leash dog park at a Parks and Recreation Commission public hearing Tuesday night at City Hall. Nine people spoke in support of the idea.One of the commission's subcommittees will weigh the testimony, the results of an off-leash dog park questionnaire and comments and e-mails received by city staff and City Council members. Committee members will offer their recommendation to the full commission on Nov. 2. The full commission will send a recommendation to the City Council.The city doesn't have a site in mind for an off-leash park and is not trying to build Marymoor, said Jon Jainga, the city's park planning and development manager, referring to the popular off-leash area in Marymoor Park in Redmond. However, on the comments section of the questionnaire several people mentioned French Lake Park, 31531 First Ave. S., as a possible site. Many dogs owners routinely disobey the law by unleashing their dogs there now. They say the park isn't used by anyone but dog owners.Off-leash park opponent Hope Elder said that's because the park lacks the amenities that would draw people. Bruce Alverson, who regularly takes his dog to Marymoor, said he agrees with Roper that French Lake Park is not the best site for an off-leash park, given the huge popularity of such parks.If you try to cram a dog park there, it'll never work, he said. It'll tear it apart. A few opponents said they don't object to off-leash parks, but don't want one within the city limits; they suggested the city partner with King and Pierce counties since such an off-leash park would likely draw people from throughout the region. Alverson suggested the tideflats.About 26,250 dogs are licensed in Federal Way, Auburn, Kent and neighboring cities, said opponent Barbara Reid, adding that probably as many dogs aren't licensed. Those represent potential users of an off-leash park.I believe its costs should be shared by all communities, not just this one, Reid said.Fifteen significant park projects remain unfunded through 2012, said opponent H. David Kaplan. And the Parks and Recreation Department struggles with maintaining the parks.I can't believe an off-leash park would supersede the importance of any of these projects, he said. ...While there may be a need for an off-leash park in South King County, Federal Way has neither the responsibility nor the funds for such a facility within city limits.Like several other opponents, Elder prefaced her remarks by saying she wasn't against dogs and owned one of her own. But she said she is absolutely floored the city would consider taking any park land and turning it into an off-leash park, given the city's need for more parks.To take away any of it away is ridiculous, Elder said.Supporters said the city wouldn't be taking away park land if it created an off-leash park; instead, it would be ensuring that all residents have a park that serves their needs.Several supporters expressed surprise at the vehement nature of the opposition's comments. A few, including Alex Straub, said they had not planned to speak but decided to after hearing the opposition.We need to serve all the interests of people in the city, Straub said. Surely we do that for the children, we do it to support our T-ball teams. There are a lot of dogs in the area and that means dog owners, too. We pay taxes, too.Dog owner John Gamache, who was a little bit astonished by people's resistance to the idea, said he's been to other off-leash parks, such as Magnuson Park in Seattle. At busy times of the day they never seem to get overrun, he said. The dog areas are separate from the rest of the parks.Supporters aren't asking for a significant chunk of park land, just a small, fenced-off area where dogs can run around, he said. People who don't pick up after their dogs are looked upon in shame, he added.I don't understand the controversy, he said.--------------Off-leash park survey results* Thirty-nine respondents live in Federal Way, four don't and 14 didn't answer the question.* Forty-three said they own dogs, 11 don't and three didn't answer the question.* The number of dogs respondents owned ranged from none to five, with an average of 1.43.* Forty-nine supported an off-leash park, six opposed it and two didn't answer the question.* Forty-eight said they would clean up after their dog, three said they wouldn't and six didn't answer the question.* Thirty-seven said they would volunteer to support the park, 12 said they wouldn't and eight didn't answer the question.* In the comment portion of the survey, eight people specifically mentioned French Lake Park as a possible site and two recommended the beach. Others recommended Flaming Geiser Park, the city of Kent, in the center of Federal Way or Five-Mile Lake Park. Source: Off-leash dog park questionnaire------------By TAMMY BATEYAssistant editorAdministrators at two of South King County's largest cities say they're willing to discuss the possibility of joining with Federal Way on creating a regional off-leash park.Both Al Dieckman, Renton's parks manager, and Lori Flemm, Kent's superintendent of park planning and development, say citizens have expressed interest in off-leash parks in their respective cities.In Renton, the leash law is enforced in the highly used parks while it's relaxed in some of the lesser used parks where dog owners already let their dogs roam leashless, Dieckman said. While uninterested in forming an off-leash park of its own, the city of Renton would be willing to discuss teaming up on a regional park, Dieckman said. We're open to look at anything, he said. In Kent, at a parks planning meeting a few months ago, several residents proposed an off-leash park, Flemm said. The city's answer won't come soon.We have not made that commitment to an off-leash dog park. It's going to be years in the process, Flemm said. It's something we will address in the next five years.In deciding whether to create such a park, city officials will consider the success of existing dog parks, rules and regulations, and the size and amenities required to make a successful off-leash park, she said.That process will likely involve discussions with neighboring cities, she said. Federal Way is looking at it, too. We would be interested. Auburn, King County, I'm sure we'd talk to all the adjacent communities. "

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