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Dogs are in line for off-the-leash park

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

If the tendencies of the four Federal Way City Council members at Monday night’s Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety Committee meeting are any predictor, it looks like the city’s dog owners will get their day.

A few dozen people turned out in support of converting French Lake Park, located on First Avenue South near the Lakehaven Utility District and Federal Way Fire Department headquarters, to an official off-leash dog park — a purpose they say the park has already been serving, albeit illegally, for four years.

Some told the committee they wanted the park converted because they can’t afford a house with a big enough yard for their dog. Others said their children had grown and their dogs provide companionship but need room to exercise.

Regardless of their reasons, all said they wanted to continue to be allowed to use the park for their canine companions without fear of getting a ticket for violating the city’s leash laws.

“We don’t want to be breaking the law,” said Julie Seitz. “We’d really like to see a resolution soon.”

The committee agreed and recommended allowing the park to be used as an official off-leash park for a year while the Parks Commission and city parks officials do some research.

While the city requires pets be leashed within city limits, dozens of dog owners have been taking their pets to French Lake Park and unhooking them to run after balls or chase Frisbees. It’s a violation of municipal code, but one that’s been going on for some time.

Earlier this year, several concerned citizens took the issue to the City Council, saying French Lake Park essentially was rendered unusable by people who wanted to visit the park without a dog.

“If you want to have a picnic, you really can’t,” said Bob Kellogg, a former Parks Commission member and long-time city parks advocate who was one of the people to raise the issue with the city.

Neighbors concerned about off-leash use also pointed out the potential danger and liability of dog bites, and noted that if the park becomes an official off-leash park, it’ll be for everyone in the city, not just the very conscientious group of neighbors who carefully steward the park every time they use it.

“There are people who don’t have such friendly dogs,” Kellogg said.

But many more people told parks committee members at Monday night’s meeting that they want to legally continue doing what they’ve been doing for years.

They said the park has become an integral part of their community and provides them as many opportunities for exercise and socialization as it does for the dogs.

“We’ve built a sense of community in a place where we’re trying to build community,” said Michael Gintz. “On the way to the park, I pass parks and play sets not being used at all, and (French Lake Park) is something that is being used.”

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