Bill Dauenhauer of Port Townsend walks his dogs through Chetzemoka Park several times nearly every day. He said he believes the idea of a new off-leash park is a great one for those who need to run their dogs and said the current off-leash area at Chetzemoka is too small. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Bill Dauenhauer of Port Townsend walks his dogs through Chetzemoka Park several times nearly every day. He said he believes the idea of a new off-leash park is a great one for those who need to run their dogs and said the current off-leash area at Chetzemoka is too small. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend City Council takes step for dog park

PORT TOWNSEND — The city’s canines are expected to have access to a fenced dog park at Mountain View Commons due in large part to community activists and a $25,000 donation.

The Port Townsend City Council voted 6-0 Monday evening to accept the donation from Rick and Debbie Jahnke to help fund fencing, gates and installation at the 1-acre site that fronts Blaine Street. The property is owned by the Port Townsend School District and is adjacent to a playfield.

Council member Bob Gray recused himself from the vote because he is a member of DROP — Dog Recreation on the Peninsula.

Rick Jahnke is the president of the nonprofit DROP.

City officials hope to see the park in place by the end of June.

The draft site plan developed by the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department calls for a 4-foot or 6-foot fence around the park. Two areas would be dedicated for large dogs. They could be rotated to allow for grass rehabilitation. One area would be for small dogs. A double entry area would allow safe access to each separate area. An existing dilapidated fence would be removed.

An estimate for the 4-foot fence is $23,540; for the 6-foot fence, the estimate is $27,500. Additional costs include dog waste bags ($2,000 annually) and park rules signage ($200).

Alex Wisniewski, director of parks and recreation, said his staff asked for feedback from those in the area who might be affected before developing the draft plan. The school district and the ReCyclery had no concerns.

The YMCA had two requests — that the dog park be fully fenced and that the field remain available for potential development for a future YMCA facility. Wisniewski said that would not be an issue for at least three or more years.

“The site has minimal neighbors and is centrally located,” Rick Jahnke said. “And it’s a good way to encourage good behavior.”

The Parks, Recreation and Tree Advisory Board voted unanimously to support the park on Jan. 22.

“We’ve been working on this for four years,” said Debbie Jahnke, who is a member of the Parks, Recreation and Tree Advisory Board.

“It has appeared in the budget as an unmet need for the last two years and I think the community needs it,” she said.

”We’ve been talking about it for awhile and felt it was the right thing to do. When the park board was first tasked by council to look at the leash law, we formed a nonprofit to help the city to facilitate a dog park.

“It was to try and generate enthusiasm and support.”

Debbie Jahnke said she had found a lot of community support but pointed out that it is still an unmet need — “even though 40 percent of our citizens have dogs. Seven of our seven council members have dogs,” she said.

According to the Jefferson County Humane Society, there are 756 licensed dogs in the city of Port Townsend.

Debbie Jahnke said that the park board and Wisniewski have done a thorough study of the rules at other dog parks in the area. The standard is that licenses and vaccinations are required, dogs below a certain age are not permitted, dogs should not be ill and no unattended dogs are allowed.

“Dogs need to be socialized, and they haven’t had that opportunity here,” Debbie Jahnke said. “They have to sneak around and they go to places they know they shouldn’t because they need the exercise.”

The Jahnkes said people run their dogs at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and let them loose in local cemeteries and on local trails. And mostly they don’t clean up after them.

Currently, the only approved off-leash area in town is a small site at Chetzemoka Park.

Park regular Bill Dauenhauer walks his dogs on a leash several times a day through the park, but does not use the dedicated off-leash area because of the size and age of his animals. He believes Chetzemoka is too small a space for large dogs to get their exercise and agrees with the new planned park.

“There are no rules posted at Chetzemoka other than to clean up after them,” Dauenhauer said. “My dogs are too small to be with other dogs, and my oldest is too frail. They enjoy slow walks with me. But it’s a great idea for others.”

Rick Jahnke said rules and the code will be posted at the new park, along with a garbage can and doggie bag dispenser. He said he believes there will be peer pressure if for dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs.

“We knew all our neighbors where we lived before by their dogs. Oh, there’s Daisy’s parents,” Debbie Jahnke said. “We don’t have a dog now, but I’ll go sit at a dog park to meet dogs because it’s a wonderful way to meet their people.”

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

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