By Meg Olson
Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District commissioners are looking at options to create an off leash area or hours at Baker Field, after the crackdown by local deputies in other public areas has led to an increase in dog owners using the park.
“I think it’s time for the parks board to designate an official off-leash area,” Ron Clark told board members at their May 9 meeting. “I’m concerned we’re going to eventually see a clamp down at Baker Field which has become an informal off-leash area. We would love to have somewhere to go without fear of the sheriff showing up with a ticket book.”
“I think it’s essential,” said Carol Fuegi. “You cannot adequately exercise your dog on a street, on a leash. Baker Field is big and very little used.”
Parks commissioner Mary Edgley, the teacher at the primary school adjacent to the park, agreed. “In the last months, I have seen Baker Field get more use from the dog people than I’ve ever seen it used,” she said.
Ailish Wallace also spoke in support of the proposal in order to address the increasing possibility of negative interactions between off-leash dogs and other park users. “Unfortunately, my child was bitten at the park last week,” she said, and while the skin was not broken, “she was shaken.”
The child had ridden her bicycle to the park and Edgley, owner of the dog, said the dog had been barking at the child as she remounted the bicycle but she had ridden away with no indication of having been harmed. “I’m so sorry this happened,” she said.
Commissioner Bennett Blaustein said there were other groups to take into account, such as horseback riders. The field is also used for community softball games, where Edgley said she has also seen a mix of off-leash dogs and children. “We also have kids riding their bikes and playing without their parents there,” said commissioner Linda Hughes.
Commissioners discussed options including fencing an area for off-leash dogs, or establishing off-leash times and areas that would minimize overlap with other user groups.
“I don’t want to see us fence off a lot of our property,” Hughes said. In any event, the district did not have funds for a project of that magnitude.
Later, after speaking with the county planning and development services, Edgley reported there was no legal impediment to commissioners adopting their own rules for the park.
Hughes also felt the county needed to take on some of the responsibility for providing areas where dog owners could exercise their dogs off leash. “I’d like to take this to the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee and ask them to take it to the county,” she said.
At the May 10 water district meeting, Hughes and Elizabeth Lantz approached commissioners about the possibility of using some of the fenced area at the water tank on Roosevelt Road for dogs. District manager Dan Bourks said the property the tank is located on could not be used for another use but the additional land to the north, but still within the fence, might be an option if it was fenced off from the tank property. “I’ll fundraise to raise the money,” Lantz said. “There’s a way we can figure it out.”
Bourks also brought up the subject of adequate parking and Lantz suggested gas tax funds might be used to create adequate parking on Roosevelt Road.
Water district commissioners adopted a motion to look into the viability of the proposal.