(WSB file photo, Westcrest Off-Leash Area)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Months later than first promised, the draft plan for Seattle Parks‘ off-leash areas is finally out today. See it here.
The process leading to this has been under way for almost a year – we mentioned a survey last July, and several local community councils included discussions at their meetings earlier this year.
We’ve just taken a quick read through the draft plan, and here are some of the points:
*No specific new off-leash areas are proposed
*A process for adding new OLAs “gradually” is outlined
*In the meantime, the city proposes spending up to $1.3 million to improve the 14 existing OLAs, through funding from the voter-approved Park District
Here’s the outline of the process suggested for adding new OLAs:
For each proposed OLA, except those involving private developers, SPR will convene a committee including dog advocates, environmental advocates, a veterinarian or animal behaviorist, community members, and SPR staff to recommend to the Superintendent whether the proposed OLA should move forward.
1 Adding OLAs through new park/redevelopment processes. SPR will specifically include OLAs as an element
for consideration in the planning process when SPR embarks on the development or redevelopment process
for new and existing parks, along with any other suggested use that arises during the process.
2 As SPR develops land-banked park sites, SPR will examine their use for new OLAs as part of the park
3 SPR will continue to consider adding new OLAs by request of the community, whether through
Neighborhood Matching Fund processes or other community processes.
4 Support groups such as COLA in developing OLAs on non-park public land suitable for OLAs, by convening
the committee described above and assisting with design.
5 Encourage groups like COLA to work with private property owners to provide OLAs on unused property.
6 Encourage private developers, through the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection, to include
OLAs as part of prospective developments.
There will still remain the issue of development costs for any of these alternatives, but those can be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
The document says adding a one-acre off-leash area is estimated to cost just under $1 million.
As for the nature of improvements/additions, the draft plan includes these recommendations:
Based on the potential for conflict between leashed and unleashed dogs and between dogs and other park activities, limited enforcement resources, and feedback from other jurisdictions, SPR recommends continuing to offer fenced OLAs only.
*Based on the potential for conflict between leashed and unleashed dogs and between dogs and other trail users, the associated need for more maintenance and enforcement and the potential for disturbing animal and bird habitat, SPR does not recommend designated leash-optional trails.
*Based on the protection of many of Seattle’s beaches by the Marine Reserves Rule and the potential for disturbing animal, marine and bird habitat, SPR recommends against establishing any more OLAs with beach access.
We’re still reading through the rest of the plan and will add anything else of note in the next hour or so (again, see the full draft plan here). Geographically, it notes that a “small area of (north West Seattle)” is one of the parts of the city that does NOT have an off-leash area within 2.5 miles; West Seattle’s one and only OLA is at Westcrest Park in Highland Park, opened in 1997 and described in the draft plan as the second-busiest off-leash area in the city.
The Westcrest analysis starts on page 145 of the report and recommends these improvements:
1. Reinstall ADA parking sign and ADA path in small and shy dog area.
2. Upgrade fencing to protect natural areas.
3. Replace woodchips with other surfacing and fill in ruts.
4. Restore eroded slope.
5. Pave service road from the north lot entrance to the inside dumpster.
WHAT’S NEXT: The process for commenting on the draft plan is outlined here. A public hearing is set for July 28th in Northgate (that same link has full details), and the Seattle Parks Board is scheduled to vote at its September 8th meeting. Parks Superintendent Jesús Aguirre has the final say on the plan.