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Grrr... Dirty dog park irks Federal Way residents

Bailey, a half-lab, half English pointer mix, takes a break to catch her breath after playing fetch at French Lake Park on Thursday. Bailey’s tongue was covered in grass after carrying a dirty ball in her mouth. Davina Mackenzie of Federal Way brings Bailey to the park once a day.  - Margo Hoffman/The Mirror
Bailey, a half-lab, half English pointer mix, takes a break to catch her breath after playing fetch at French Lake Park on Thursday. Bailey’s tongue was covered in grass after carrying a dirty ball in her mouth. Davina Mackenzie of Federal Way brings Bailey to the park once a day.
— image credit: Margo Hoffman/The Mirror

Fewer people seem satisfied with the French Lake dog park these days.

Some people who use the dog park complain that it is muddy and smelly. Neighbors who live nearby complain that the park is noisy and dirty.

Steve Ikerd, acting parks director for Federal Way, said his office recently became aware of the complaints and is working on solutions. Ikerd said he is confident the issues will be resolved.

“This is a learning experience for the city and the users, having an off-leash dog park, and this just happens to be a period of time here where we’re trying to work through some of these issues,” Ikerd said.

French Lake Park, about 10 fenced acres near 1st Avenue South and South 320th Street, has been open for about three years. Neighbors were consulted as part of the planning process for the park, Ikerd said.

The city is currently arranging meetings with the Lakehaven Utility District, which owns half the park, to address concerns about excessive mud in the west half of the park.

Currently, only the west end of the dog park is open. It was recently reopened after workers filled ponds in the area. When the west end reopened, the east end of the park was closed for re-turfing.

A portion of the park that contains a pond in the east end is also fenced off because the pond water is contaminated with blue algae, according to a sign posted at the park. Ikerd said the city is monitoring the water in the pond, and that the toxicity will go down by itself as the weather changes.

“We’ve seen the counts go down, but we don’t know how long it’s going to take,” he said.

It has been almost a year that only half the park has been available for users, said Kat Wamba, a Federal Way resident who brings her dogs to the park five to six times a week.

The condition of the park has gotten progressively worse, Wamba said. The west half of the park is excessively muddy and smelly. There are large areas of standing water even on non-rainy days.

“It’s really mucky. It smells funny. It smells like sewage to me,” she said. “It hasn’t been that rainy recently and yet I still go and I end up with wet shoes and muddy pants and a muddy dog.”

The west end of the park may be muddy because of an irrigation problem, said Ikerd, who plans to work with Lakehaven to explore the issue. He also said the foul odor is probably a result of decaying grass debris. If a solution to the wet areas can’t be found, Ikerd said the city may consider fencing off the worst portion.

Wamba said fenced off areas of the park contribute to the problem by causing excessive wear on the open areas.

“Since we’re having to squish (the dogs) into five acres, that’s just harder on the ground,” she said.

Rae Farnsworth, who regularly uses the dog park, said that re-turfing the grass on the east side of the park is a bad idea because it is typically the most heavily used area of the park.

“As soon as they take the fences down, it’s going to be torn up all again,” she said.

Farnsworth would like to see the area nearest the parking lot covered in gravel or sand — something durable enough to tolerate the heavy traffic there. Other park users last week suggested creating a gravel path around the park’s perimeter or building a footbridge over the swampy areas.

The grass in the east half of the dog park has already been seeded and is starting to grow. The closed section of the park should be open in the spring, Ikerd said. At that time, the entire 10 acres of the park should be available for use.

Contact Margo Hoffman: mhoffman@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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