The case for another off-leash dog park in Sammamish

Sammamish needs another off-leash dog park. Here’s why and how it can be safe.

The Beaver Lake dog park is too small to be of real use. The dogs don’t have enough room to run and play. The “dog prisons” that exist there now compress the play and exercise areas, and the large breed area with its path can be traversed in five minutes. My Golden Retriever gets no exercise to speak of here.

As readers know, I advocated turning Big Rock Park into an off-leash park. There was a long comment posted why this should not be done: safety, potential harm to sensitive areas, etc.

The response is easy.

First, if people know it’s an off-leash dog park, problem solved. The conflict emerges with the assumption that it is not an off-leash park and some people nonetheless let their dog off-leash.

Certain days (or even certain hours) could also be designated off-leash with the remaining days on-leash.

Second, as with Marymoor Park, fence off those sensitive areas. Costly? Perhaps, but after spending a half million dollars (!!!) for two (!!!) boat docks at Sammamish Landing, I’m not sure there is a good argument on cost.

Whether Big Rock Park or another park becomes off-leash, Sammamish has plenty of “people” parks. Having a sizable off-leash park, well designated, is a convenience and an amenity.

People complain about having to drive off the Plateau for goods and services, and note that keeping people on the Plateau reduces traffic. The same argument can be made for this amenity.

I received this email from a reader.

It Is Time to Decriminalize Walking the Dog

Forbes’ friendliest town of Sammamish does not want you to appear in a public park with an unleashed dog.  Boasting a dozen parks and counting, there is but a sliver of one park where walking a dog off leash is allowed.  The city does not bother pointing out that that sliver of land belongs to the power company and is not to be used or developed for safety reasons.  The parks fall under the laws of King County and they stipulate that all dogs with a few exceptions must be walked on leash.  In practice, parks employees do not write tickets or even approach dog owners.  Law enforcement officers only respond to calls about overly aggressive dogs or related problems.  If you want to walk or run your dog off leash, go ahead but be discreet and clean up after your dog.  This utopia is about to change.

We had an incident in one of our parks in which a young girl carrying a toy was confronted by a young German Shepard.  The dog wanted the toy and was aggressive towards the girl.  The girl and mother were very upset by the episode and Mayor Odell decided to put some teeth into the regulations.  The big solution is to have trained volunteers wear uniforms and carry guns and write tickets to people walking their dogs off leash.  Basically, the Mayor is admitting that this is not enough of a problem to actually hire police to do the work.  I can see a lot of potential problems with this solution but the obvious thing to do is create more off leash parks.  Clearly they will be used and in doing so it will be easier to enforce the leash law for everywhere else.

I will be holding a meeting at the Sammamish Youth Center  soon  for people interested in expanding our off leash opportunities.  What I would like to do is to put together some suggestions for how to make our existing parks more dog owner friendly and then go with a group of people to City Hall and present them at a City Council Meeting.  If we go as a group, we get 5 minutes to present our case.  Now is the time to be heard, ignoring this problem is no longer an option.

Paul Meehan

I also received this email from one of the Park Commissioners, speaking for herself:

1. What is the # 1 complaint that the Sammamish Parks Director gets?… leash dogs….in our parks where they are supposed to be on leash but are not. (When I grew up we had dogs…don’t think we owned a leash…..they never got hit and pretty much did what they wanted…we never had any complaints that I know of.  Times change…we may not like it but we do have to respect the rights of those who do not like dogs, are not comfortable around them etc)
2.The Master Plan for Big Rock Park park does not include an off leash area. I went to all the public meetings…I am fairly certain that NO ONE even discussed establishing an off leash dog area anywhere in Site A or Site B.
3. (cont.) The chances of a change to the Master Plan is highly unlikely… least regarding this issue.
4. Sites A, B have wetlands…wet or dry, dogs cannot be allowed to trample them.
5. Speaking of wetlands, this park has a number of highly sensitive areas…probably another reason why no one suggested an off leash area. The understory of Big Rock Park has to be protected.  Thinking that dogs will stay on the specific trails is unrealistic.
6. (cont.)  To allow dogs to have a free for all chasing small mammals, deer and God forbid, a bear at Big Rock Park would be not wise….as you may or may not know, there was a recent bear sighting at that park and neighbors report that a bear/s use that park frequently.
7. There are close-by neighbors that are adjacent to this park…..the parks department has made the decision (rightly so) to respect the privacy of these neighbors….this would include barking dogs running loose etc. or in a constrained area.
As an idea…maybe another dog park could be established in Sammamish and people could direct their efforts toward finding another suitable place or location.  I have used the Beaver Lake Off Leash dog park many, many times and usually leave because there aren’t any dogs in the small section that my dog can play with!  so being overcrowded is not an issue on most days. The section for large dogs seem to be adequate also.
I am copying people with whom I have had a discussion with about off leash dogs.  I am not representing the views of the Parks Commission but feel strongly that the 7 points above would be supported by the Parks Commission and also the Parks Director.

3 thoughts on “The case for another off-leash dog park in Sammamish

  1. Not all dogs or their owners fit into a “one size fits all” category, nor are all dog bite cases the same either.
    Be clear that I own three small breed dogs and one cat. I keep the dogs on leash at all times even though I live on a farm. The main risk is a moderately busy farm road near my home. I provide them with a 200 sq. ft. ‘playpen’ where they run and have a great time.
    Having said all that, my 2 1/2 year old son was mauled by two German Sheppards in 1987 and I was able to show “intent to harm” in court and won the case.
    Note that Dog Parks come in all shapes and sizes too. Many are completely fenced. Some municipalities require permitting and the payment of certain fees as well as proof of shots, etc. The assumption of risk by all parties is the most ambiguous area.
    If I were on the City Council making a decision whether to site a dog park and where, I would engage in due diligence first to review best practices around the country before jumping in with both feet with a decision.

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