Dog park not working out

Parks district commissioners will be approaching local dog walkers who have been enjoying the ability to have their dogs off leash at Baker Field to say it hasn’t worked out.

At their July 10 meeting, parks commissioner chair Linda Hughes said that she had a “long list of complaints from  citizens about the off-leash experiment at the park.” These included dogs running into the horse paddocks of a neighboring property, safety issues with loose dogs mixing with kids on bikes, and dog waste.

“The off-leash dog owners have been neglecting their responsibilities and it has resulted in a number of problems,” Hughes said.

School employee Tracy Kelly said the children at the primary school were frequently stepping in dog waste, though it had improved slightly since the off-leash dog owners began using the far side of the field. Hughes said she had also heard from parents who were unhappy dog owners were asking their children not to ride their bikes on the field during off-leash times. “They believe people own the park,” she said. “Not dogs.”

Kelly said she was fully in support of a place for dogs to play off-leash, but felt that such an area needed to be fenced. “Every other dog park I researched has a fence,” she said. The cities of Blaine, Lynden and Bellingham all have fenced dog parks. Ferndale, Blaine and Bellingham also have certain parks where dogs are allowed off-leash on trails or at the beach.

Bennett Blaustein said the park did get a lot of use from dog owners and suggested the district had a responsibility to serve that part of the community as well as others. “They’re not opposed to a fenced area, it’s the funding,” he said.

“Let’s work together as a community and get those funds together,” Kelly said, adding that she recognized the need for an off-leash area on the Point and would be glad to help raise funds to make it happen.

Hughes said she felt the parks district’s responsibility was to provide the land but that dog owners needed to get together to fund fencing. She suggested they look at an area adjacent to the water tower. “We’re not going to be fencing off any of Baker Field.”

Cost savings might be possible by sharing the cost of fencing with the water district, Blaustein said, but he also thought Baker Field was large enough that some portion could be fenced off for dogs without impacting other users.

“What we need to do now is reach out to dog walkers and say, ‘Hey, it’s not working out,’” Blaustein said.

“We need to find a place that can work for them,” he added.

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