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Dog park open house Feb. 5

Residents are invited to a “pop-in, pop-out” open house Monday, Feb. 5 to let the parks and recreation district know their thoughts on off-leash dog parks in The Dalles.

The Northern Wasco County Parks & Recreation District’s open house will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the fire station in Columbia View Heights, located at 525 Wasco Dr.

The fenced Firehouse Park, which has served as an off-leash park for several years, the fenced Firehouse Park, is next to Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue’s Station 2, as the station is known.

A citizen complained last fall that dog owners were not abiding by park rules on when dogs could be off leash and the district decided to hold a meeting to gather public input.

The same citizen also wrote a letter to the editor recently, but Parks Director Scott Baker said the timing of the meeting was set earlier and wasn’t a direct response to the letter itself.

The open house will feature “dot voting,” in which people can select two among a range of dog park management options, Baker said. “You can weigh in, share your thoughts and take off,” he said. “It’s not like we’re doing a big presentation, It’s more about listening.”

Management options range from having dogs on leash all the time to dogs off leash at various hours. “So essentially think of a spectrum from no dogs ever to dogs off leash all the time,” Baker said.

The parks district has a more stringent rule in its parks that pets must be on a leash at all times. The less stringent city rule that local police enforce is that dogs must be under the owners control, Baker said.

Since the parks district doesn’t have its own law enforcement arm, the simpler thing, and a common thing elsewhere, would be to have the parks rules match the city rules.

Baker said the issues that have been reported to the parks district with people using Firehouse Park for off-leash use at all hours — rather than just the morning hours of dawn to 9:30 a.m. as posted — is that “The Dalles needs a dedicated off-leash dog park.

“Part of the public meeting will be talking about people’s preferred location for that,” he said. “The parks district has some properties that could potentially house a dedicated off-leash dog area. They’re in neighborhoods, I don’t know how that would be received in those neighborhoods. Because we haven’t asked, and there’s areas that are farther out and that’s what I would like to hear from people: Would they be willing to drive to an off-leash park vs. having one in the neighborhood that they could potentially walk to?”

The potential properties are: an area of Sorosis Park, the district’s 14th Street shop property, Howe Park, and potentially a season area at Riverfront Park. The ideal size is four acres and most areas more or less meet that criteria, Baker said.

A dog park would be fenced, typically with a five-foot fence. The 14th Street property, for example, is already fenced on three sides.

The ideal dog park is one with two separated areas, “And one will be open and when one gets too muddy and torn up they’ll close it and alternate so the grass will have time to recover.”

Baker added, “One thing I would like to stress is dog parks are for people. Dog parks are for dog owners. And for a lot of folks it’s a great social and community building opportunity. People love to talk about their dogs, if we have nothing else in common, a dog park’s a great place to meet your neighbors and get to know them.”


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