PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council, in response to residents’ concerns, has dropped the idea of using two neighborhood areas as off-leash dog parks and approved another area for such use, contingent on several conditions.
The city now has one small designated off-leash area at Chetzemoka Park, established in May 2016.
The city’s municipal code requires dogs to be kept on-leash while on city-owned property and rights of way.
In a resolution passed Feb. 6, 2017, the council had designated two off-leash areas on city-owned properties: one at 35th and Thomas streets, and the second at Umatilla Avenue and Holcomb Street.
On Monday, the council, in a 6-0 vote — with Councilwoman Michelle Sandoval absent — decided to drop the two areas as off-leash dog parks and instead designate a fenced portion of Mountain View Campus at 1925 Blaine St. for such a park, subject to neighborhood notification and approval of the Port Townsend School District, which owns the property.
Fencing also would have to be completed for the area.
“We need to step back and reevaluate the two parcels in question — the parcel on Umatilla and the one on 35th — and determine the suitability of each,” said City Manager David Timmons .
“Issues and conflicts have been reported,” he said. “I don’t think these areas are well-suited for this type of activity.”
Comments and complaints in emails and phone calls from neighboring residents led Timmons and staff to reconsider their use. Limited access, narrow roads and parking were major concerns, as was noise and the lack of fencing for safety.
The city staff said that in November 2017, letters from the city had been sent to property owners living near the two areas informing them of the designation and that the property would be improved and maintained with signage and mowing.
Residents on Monday said they were never properly notified of the potential for the properties to be off-leash areas and asked the council to rescind the action.
Resident Roger Davis said he and his neighbors were not aware the properties were designated as dog parks.
“I request a passage, a rousing passage,” of the new resolution, Davis said. “It’s the safety we are concerned about.”
Linda Rohrs said she lives 20 feet from one of the proposed properties.
“Trail 13 lies right there. I see little children riding bicycles, quite elderly women walking alone,” she said. “Most people have their dog on leashes. My concern is the conflicts that arise when dogs aren’t fenced.”
Said Doug Pope: “It makes sense that if you don’t fence it, the dogs are going to escape. It’s right next to the trail. How are you going to stop dogs from interfering with people who use the trails all the time?”
Susan Ambrosis, who lives 20 feet from the trail, said: “We need to consider that this is part of our watershed. It’s a down slope area. I’ve seen so many people with off-leash dogs and can imagine in a patch this big, if you’re standing in the parking area and your dog is at the other end doing what dogs do, and even if we have a can right there and plastic bags, I don’t think the owner will walk across the field and clean it up. All community members must clean up dog excrement because it ends up in Puget Sound.”
Calling the feedback a “good lesson,” Timmons said the city needed to “take a step back and start this process over and give it more thought.”
Councilman David Faber noted that there are rarely more than two dogs and one car parked at the Chetzemoka Park area. He said there isn’t a lot of room for dogs to run and be exercised. He believes a larger fenced venue is warranted.
“We need to make sure we are finding a permanent location with a significant amount of space to run dogs,” Faber said. “Besides this property, I don’t know where else that is in the city’s ownership.
“When we cast about before, these are the ones the city landed on. We need to be honest about what we can do. I understand the request of the community and believe they are completely reasonable.
“I do want to consider that this is not completely unreasonable to look at in the long term.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].