Dear Dog Guardians, Dog Lovers and Park Patrons;
As a middle aged, divorcee raising four teenagers around my life of public service, I have come to live through the repetition of four simple mantras; Knowledge is Power , Attitude is Everything, Kindness Counts and Patience is Rewarded. I have grown to rely on these statements when times are rough and the road to success uncertain. During these challenging times I invite you to use these simple phrases; especially when it comes to the on-going dog culture concerns that are pervasive within our parks system, in particular our natural areas and open spaces.
You have likely read my many updates throughout this pandemic about the need to leash dogs in our public parks and pathways and perhaps have even been frustrated that the freedoms you hoped for your dog have been limited. Many of you have been diligent about following these guidelines and I am thankful for that, but sadly, some are not. Though the issue of off leash dogs in our natural areas is not a new one, it has been heightened in the past 9 months as more and more people are turning to the walking trails in nature for physical and emotional well-being. In order to ensure all park patron safety ( both physical and emotional) I am pleading with you to read on.
Knowledge is Power: Did you know…..
Off leash dogs can be physically and emotionally threatening to other patrons; deterring them from continued park use
Off leash dogs in natural areas disturb sensitive ecosystems: trampling native species and introducing invasive species to the environment
Off leash dogs can scare, harm or even kill established wildlife
Off leash dogs defecate without removal from the land, which is detrimental to the quality of our waterways
Attitude is Everything:
When using the parks, please be mindful that they belong to everyone. While I am glad that you and your dog are there to enjoy, please remember that others are there to enjoy as well and don’t want to be jumped on, alarmed, barked at, surprised or frightened by a dog. Friendliness of dogs is always assumed, but that doesn’t mean it is okay for a dog to pounce on people. I am a nice person with good intentions myself, but I bet you wouldn’t appreciate if I were chasing after you on a trail and pushed you down with exuberance. Too often park patron concerns about off leash dogs are met with negative attitudes; as if asking someone to be compliant with ordinances and guidelines makes them a dog hater. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the complaints I get from folks are from dog lovers and even dog guardians themselves. Nobody is out to squash you or your dog’s good time, I only ask that you follow the guidance for the betterment of all park users. Each patron is entitled to feel welcome and safe in our parks and enjoy the same benefits that you do.
While the expectation is that dog guardians will be compliant and always leash there dog, there may be times when an excited dog races from the car before you can catch it. Should that happen and you find yourself in a park with your dog off leash, you may be provided either a reminder or request to “please leash your dog” from another park goer. It is my hope that this request would be met with a courteous response and immediate remedy. Being verbally abusive to someone who is asking you to simply follow the rules is not okay. Just last weekend I had a report from two different families who will no longer be using our parks because of negative interactions they had with an off leash dog guardian. One of them stating that they had their toddler with them when a large dog came barreling toward her, when the father asked the dog guardian to leash the dog, he was greeted with the response “ why don’t you leash your kid”. That is simply unacceptable!
Patience is Rewarded:
Both staff and volunteer residents are working hard to create a framework to forward a positive dog culture and to establish appropriate facilities for both dog play and dog recreation in our community. There is a standing Dog Park Committee who has been instrumental in the relocation of a modest Bark Park at Farrell Park as well as sighting a to be built Dog Park at the corner of Swift and Dorset Street just before the Wheeler Nature Park. Additionally, staff has worked within Committees to draft guidance for the creation of a Task Force to help find ways to mitigate the concerns of off leash dogs in our preserved natural areas; with the main goal of finding a location within our community that offers multiple acres of open space with mixed topography where humans and off leash dogs can hike trails together. We are working hard to find solutions, but it takes time and I urge you to be patient as we work through these needed steps. There are budget and resource considerations that we are working around, but hold this as a priority in the ongoing work we do.
Thank you for taking the time to read, to pause and to do some critical thinking about your own behaviors and the impact they have on others. If you keep your dog on a leash each time you enjoy our parks and open spaces, then you are certainly part of the solution and I thank you for that. If you don’t keep your dog leashed and have found that you defend your dog’s personality or justify your decision to not follow the ordinances and guidelines, then you are contributing to the problem. Please be thoughtful about the next time you walk your dog in one of our parks, pathways or open spaces and make decisions that will promote the health and safety of all park patrons. Many of you are doing all the right things, and now that others have been educated on the need, I am hopeful that all dog guardians will make the right decision and always leash their dogs in these public spaces.
Thank you for your consideration and compliance,