Park district declares off-leash area a failure

There’s been no shortage of signage regarding rules governing dog and owner behavior at Baker Field. Photo by Andrew Grubb

By Meg Olson

The off-leash dog experiment at Baker Field has failed, and dogs need to be back on the leash until local park commissioners can come up with a plan for a fenced dog park.

At their regular November 13 board meeting, park commissioners voted unanimously to discontinue the policy that allowed dogs to be off-leash at Baker Field during non-school hours and specified times during the summer.

The action was taken partly in response to a recent dog biting at the park, but commissioner Bennett Blaustein said there were other issues. “I have had to chase people off who had dogs loose at the playground while school was in session,” he said, adding that there is a growing problem of dog feces accumulating around the restrooms, ironically right where the poop bag station is located.

Several members of the Facebook group Point Roberts Dog Park attended the meeting to ask that the district maintain opportunities for dogs to be off-leash on the Point. “Dogs need to run and socialize,” said Noelle Newbolt.

The Facebook group has 31 members but usually a dozen or less get together at the park between 4 and 5 p.m. Their initial meeting place was adjacent to the
restrooms but they moved to the other end of the field to address concerns about dog feces near the school. The district addressed dogs roaming onto adjoining properties with temporary fencing in September.

Blaustein said members of the dog park group had made concerted efforts to coexist with other parks users, but problems persisted. “It may not be the dog park people but we have people who are just not following the rules and I think we [need] to restrict the off-leash program,” he said.

Commissioner Sonya Liu said she had received an email from an individual who claimed he had been “stalked and bitten” by a mixed breed black and white dog named Rosie while jogging through the field during the hour the dog group met. “The owner didn’t get there quickly enough,” Liu said. Liu suggested that the dogs might be harder to control when they are in a large group.

The park district has signage outlining the rules of the off leash program such as allowing dogs off-leash on the trails in the woods and during restricted hours, and asking for owners to clean up after their dog. There is also signage alerting other users to times when a large number of off-leash dogs might be on the field.

“The signs are there but it’s not enough,” Blaustein said. “We need to make it more restrictive. I still want to support a dog park but I think the only way to do that is to have it enclosed.”

And there have been a few ideas on how to keep the dogs and owners happy. Fencing an area on the north end of the field was practically and financially feasible, Blaustein said, “But do we want to see parts of Baker Field fenced off?”

Three acres of the marina is supposedly dedicated to public recreation, Newbolt said, and could potentially be a good dog park. “We should ask them,” she suggested. “It was supposed to be improved for public recreation and it never was.”

Commissioner Arthur Reber suggested approaching the water district to see if the already fenced area around the water tank on Roosevelt Road could be used. Dog group member Ron Clark pointed out that possibility had been looked at earlier and parking had been a concern. Water district manager Dan Bourks had also previously said that the tank needed to be secure from the public to protect the water supply.

Blaustein suggested they suspend the off-leash program at Baker Field immediately and “spend the next month looking at these options.”

Liu said she felt they should continue to allow dogs to be off-leash on the trails in the woods. “Problems have occurred when they’re in a large group,” she said. “I think keeping the trails off-leash is a reasonable compromise.”

Commissioners voted to make Baker Field an on-leash area but allow dogs off-leash on the trails.

“We will be looking at other options and if none can be found we will revisit fencing part of Baker Field,” Blaustein said.

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