If you take your dog to Lincoln Park, the trail’s the place to be. Student volunteer/researcher explains why.

While helping Friends of Lincoln Park restore the forest, a University of Washington environmental-studies senior has also been studying one of the park’s thorniest issues: Off-leash dogs. Sam Timpe has been working with the local volunteers 15 hours a week since January, planting natives and pulling invasives.

Spending all that time in the park, he’s been able to observe dog owners and their pets, and while most follow the rules, he says the ones who don’t are responsible for more damage than you might think. He’s hoping for an “attitude shift” in the park, and hoping that people feel empowered to talk to those not following the rules, to say “please don’t do it,” to have a sense of community.

Restoration work is something you often won’t detect just with a casual glance. It’s a cleared spot, a small plant. “With all the people doing restoration work there,” Sam said, “to have a dog run through it and tear it, is kind of disheartening.”

Any individual dog, of course, wouldn’t do that much damage, he explains, but if he sees one every hour, ten times a day, 50 times a week, the cumulative effects add up.

From Sam’s research:

I did a study within Lincoln Park to get some baseline data on leash and trail compliance. I chose three different locations within the park (south open area near bluff trail, north open area west of soccer field, and the north parking lot) and at each location I conducted three 90-minute samples, one on a weekday morning, weekday evening, and weekend morning. I found that 59 of 239 (25%) of dogs were off leash. 55 of 239 (23%) of dogs were observed going into the woods (off trail, off grass). When excluding the north parking lot, I found that 38% of dogs are off leash and 29% are going into the woods.

The effects go beyond the “trampling of plants,” he explains. When that happens, it’s easier for seeds to disperse and the forest edge to break down. Those seeds are seldom desirable ones – instead, they’re the invasives, the berry-laden plants like ivy, holly, blackberries, cotoneaster.

And the giddily exploring pooch might spread them beyond the park – seeds can catch in their paws, and be carried far away.

One area that Friends of Lincoln Park is particularly concerned about is near the north parking lot. A restored area might look like a clearing – with the invasives removed, and the new native plants fragile and small – and that might seem to some like an invitation to make their own trails. Sam says he also sees people stop, let their dogs out for a quick dash or bio-break, and then move on.

What would he say to try to educate people, convince them not to do this?

Without the restoration work, he says, invasive plants will start to take over and start climbing up trees (think of all the ivy-covered trees you’ve seen). Eventually that weakens the trees, and a windstorm might be all it would take to bring them down. On the ground level, the invasives take over and nothing else can get established, so a “monoculture desert of holly and ivy” results, he explains. Take a look at the difference between a clump of native vegetation before cotoneaster removal, and after:

The value of a healthy urban forest? Priceless. He ticks off benefits: “Reduces stormwater runoff, improves water quality, captures and filters air pollution, provides wildlife habitat, aesthetically improves neighborhoods’ appearance …”

About the wildlife: Even if a dog doesn’t catch it, or eat it, it is a threat: “A lot of these animals, if you watch them for a while, they’re working on eating, building shelter, nests, on what it takes to survive. When you do have dogs chasing them, they have to expend a lot of energy on the chase, getting safe …maybe that next chase does it in, it’s tired. I found one study about shorebirds – having to avoid dogs chasing after them 12 times a day. Many were getting ready for migration. In another study, researchers walked through different areas (of a forest/park) with dogs on leash, with dogs offleash, without dogs … when humans were there with dogs, there was a 41 percent decrease in the amount of birds present. Birds are aware it’s a potential threat.”

So what’s the solution?

More parks specifically set up for off-leash dogs seems like an obvious idea, Sam says, but they’re not so simple to set up – grassy fields get muddy in the rainy season very fast; gravel can lead to runoff problems for nearby waterways.

He hopes that information and education – like this report about his volunteer activities and research – can help people be aware that dogs at least need to stay on the paths, and to share that awareness with others.

He’s working toward a research paper and presentation next quarter. And he’s well aware that dogs are the light of their humans’ lives … he’s just hoping a little enlightenment will help the forest and its inhabitants too.

Stay on the trail, or at least grassy edges and fields – it’s not grass they’re worried about. If it’s a native plant, don’t walk or run on it – salal, Oregon grape, red flowering currant, ocean spray, seedlings of evergreens such as Western red cedar, Douglas fir, Western hemlock, all types of ferns, snowberry … He could go on.

He’s been working on a spot near the bluff trail but hopes to see all the restoration areas thrive.

P.S. He’s interested in your thoughts, if you have a moment to comment.

77 Replies to "If you take your dog to Lincoln Park, the trail's the place to be. Student volunteer/researcher explains why."

  • NativetoSeattle March 17, 2015 (5:25 am)

    What a gift to have Sam and the local volunteers work to keep Lincoln Park a healthy urban forest. His perspective, explanation, and dedication to restoration I are informative, objective, and reasonable. I wouldn’t have thought much about letting a dog take a quick run through the woods, but now I understand how it could undo so much work.
    I love dogs, but also want Lincoln Park to be a healthy forest.

  • flimflam March 17, 2015 (5:43 am)

    gah. pretty disappointing but not that surprising.

    so, who will be the 1st dog owner to claim,”its not that big of a deal, its just a few plants, not MY dog – no way, don’t you tell me what to do, etc etc…

    I know someone on the forum often tries to get dog owners who lament the lack of off leash parks to do something about it, organize, but nobody ever responds!

  • RunningWild March 17, 2015 (6:20 am)

    First, I’m not advocating for off-leash dogs, but I do have to ask, what about animals other than dogs? Wouldn’t any other animal (coyotes come to mind) present the same danger to plants? If we had bears here would people suggest that they stick to the trails? How do we distinguish when it is and is not ok for an animal to be an animal? Also, I have never understood the whole “invasive” and “native” thing. What would happen if human intervention wasn’t here to clear the invasive plants, would nature find a way? Same thing for native, why is being non-native a bad thing? Most of us aren’t native to Seattle, but diversity is generally considered a good thing. Why shouldn’t a plant have an opportunity to become native? Seems like a little bit of Darwinism isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

  • Chris W March 17, 2015 (6:28 am)

    Thanks for all your restoration work, Sam!

  • Kim March 17, 2015 (7:00 am)

    Thanks for the hard work on the park, Sam. We need more off-leash areas for dogs, but one of our urban forests is the wrong place. Thanks for doing this study and bringing this to light.

  • PG March 17, 2015 (7:06 am)

    RunningWild, I think there are way more dogs running around at Lincoln park than coyotes. It’s the cumulative damage that’s the issue. Sam, this is a great article, thanks for your hard work.

  • GWT March 17, 2015 (7:12 am)

    Thank you, WSB, for publishing this! It’s astounding how many dog owners completely disregard park rules at Lincoln Park. With all the dogs in West Seattle, I do hope that dog owners show some initiative and organize off leash options. It’s irresponsible to let dogs roam the parks as many do. Not to mention, it’s uncomfortable (and for my toddler it’s often terrifying) to be pounced upon by someone’s dog while enjoying a quiet walk in the park. It does seem like the dogs are taking over Lincoln Park sometimes! Also, in spite of the signs prohibiting it, many people seem to think it’s fine to allow their dogs to run around on the beach (and inadvertently terrorize my toddler…and then pee inches away from where he is digging in the sand!?). I don’t imagine these beach rendezvous could be good for resting seal pups and shore birds either. I’m not a dog person but I’m certainly not a dog hater either. I just think dog ownership is a big responsibility and owners need to do more to respect their parks, their dogs and their neighbors. Thanks again, WSB!

  • SGG March 17, 2015 (7:13 am)

    I appreciate the work they are doing at Lincoln Park, we love it there, and always have our pup on the leash in the city for all kinds of reasons.

    Does the city parks department have a policy on non-native species in the parks? I ask because I have been surprised to see the parks department allow the planting on non-native palm trees at Alki Beach when some film crew comes along and pays a permit to shoot a commercial or film of some sort. It seems kind of weird for a parks department to allow that.

  • onion March 17, 2015 (7:14 am)

    I would have guessed that the percentage of off-leash dogs in Lincoln Park is higher than Sam’s calculations. I also can’t imagine ANY dog owners actually putting their dogs back on a leash due to a stranger’s admonishment — or even reacting very politely to the suggestion.

  • Chris March 17, 2015 (7:16 am)

    RunningWild – Good questions.

    Although it might seem that adding invasive plants would contribute to biodiversity in an area, it often does the opposite, where a few introduced species outcompete existing natives and create a monoculture. (Think of the areas overrun by blackberries or ivy and not much else.)

    I went on a nature walk in Lincoln Park a few years ago and the guide said that Lincoln Park had the highest number of different native plant species of Seattle parks, which seems like something precious to protect.

    I don’t know as much about native animal impacts, but I would guess that coyotes, for example, tread more lightly on the land than domestic dogs. And, there certainly aren’t hundreds of coyotes per day traveling through the park.

  • h March 17, 2015 (7:26 am)

    @RunningWild at some point you have to establish boundaries. According to Sam, frequency and subsequent repetitive damage are concerns. Pet dogs go home to eat and rest; therefore, they explore and play at the parks. It’s a completely different behavior than the animals that live in the park and according to Sams research damaging to the long term health/production of food and habitat. Invasive plants species are classified per region. Parks recognize those classifications to maintain tree & soil health. As we build more, our parks are imperative to filtering storm runoff.

    Sam, your research is really interesting and could pave the way to some really interesting changes for our urban parks. Good work!

    I’d love to see some really cool and different dog park ideas discussed as a result.

  • Wendell March 17, 2015 (7:27 am)

    Good job Sam. The most difficult part of your job will probably be fighting ignorance.

  • Gene March 17, 2015 (7:32 am)

    What a great article-Thanks Sam for your work, perspective, dedication.
    RunningWild-have you never seen any documentaries -nature specials -magazine articles on the danger of native/ non-native/invasive species of plants & animals? Remember the concerns over debris from the Japanese tsunami-the invasive mussels & barnacles hitching a ride on the debris that could pose a threat to local marine biology/industry? Really-just google the topic-there are real & legitimate concerns. I think Sam’s statement in the article about the benefits of clearing away invasive species to encourage a “healthy urban forest” is pretty clear & should be an eye-opener about how we can all make a difference.
    This is an awesome article-thanks Sam & WSB!

  • C March 17, 2015 (7:50 am)

    FYI…. the last census report (2011) states there are 107,178 children in King County & 153,000+ dogs. My dog does not go off leash anywhere but dog parks. When we go hiking around the state we do stay on trails for the same reason Sam is discussing. The park has been around since the 20’s & kids/people should be able to play wherever & not have to stay on the trails in a city park.

  • sophista-tiki March 17, 2015 (7:52 am)

    um,,, ‘off leash dogs’ isn’t specifically a park issue its a city ordinance. Dogs are not supposed to be off leash PERIOD! ~ owner of an awesome always leashed dog faced boy. FYI the off leash dog parks are a joke. over run, the dogs are usually great but alot of the humans are aholes.

  • miws March 17, 2015 (8:06 am)

    Thank you, Sam, for your hard work and research, and than you WSB, for sharing.


    I wonder if Parks would allow some signage to be put up, that would explain the facts and concerns of Sam’s research, and importance not allowing dogs and people to trample the sensitive/re-growing areas?


    Perhaps something that addresses these concerns could be formatted in a concise manner that would keep the pertinent data to one page, that regular visitors could print up at home, and carry with them, to hand out to people observed allowing their dogs off-leash? (Hopefully, the sheet of paper wouldn’t end up crumpled on the ground, but maybe the people handing them out could only do so with people that seem truly receptive?)


    And, finally, RunningWild, are you serious, or trying to have fun with us?


    Coyotes, bears (and when was the last one spotted in Lincoln Park? 100 years ago?), and other wild animals, are just that. Wild animals. Dogs are domesticated, and save for the occasional Homeless/lost dog, are (supposed to be) under control by the person walking them (and of course control=on-leash).



  • Karen Lyons March 17, 2015 (8:15 am)

    Green spaces are VITAL to our neighborhoods and we are losing them at a rapid pace. I belong to the Seattle Green Space Coalition and we are trying to save a number of empty substation green spaces and other spaces in danger of being sold for development by the city of Seattle and Seattle Utilities. The Parks system refuses to add any new green spaces to the Parks system unless it’s in a specific spot on their map. THis map is only upgraded every 5 years. And it does not take into account parks, such as Lincoln Park, that are overused and crowded. Their plans, also, don’t take into account the building boom that is happening in West Seattle and the boom we will have in population in this 5 year span between Park plans. Once we lose these green spaces to development, they are gone forever! Quote from Chip Nevin-Seattle Parks:
    Chip Nevins to explain Park’s acquisition strategy he said the following:
     “The Parks Dept. is trying to fill gaps in our existing system and provide parks and open space to areas of the City that are not served by them right now. Our guiding document for all things parks (Capital projects, acquisitions, etc) is the Development plan, that is updated every 5 years.”

  • wakeflood March 17, 2015 (8:43 am)

    There is a prescribed process – A READILY AVAILABLE ONE AT THAT – for dog owners to create Off Leash Areas. All it takes, ALL IT TAKES, is for a handful of these um… “folks” who let their dogs run free to contact the OLA group and start a petition. They’d have had one by now if they’d get off their lazy butts and just do it.

    But no. It’s way easier to be a lazy hypocrite.

    Quit ruining the park for everyone else my selfish, entitled neighbors.

    I don’t have a dog but if you actually got a petition started, I’d help you get signatures and buy you beer. I bet I’m not the only one, either.

  • Joan Miller March 17, 2015 (8:52 am)

    Thanks for a great article. Off-leash dogs are a problem in all parks. Native restoration and wildlife are impacted everywhere. I like dogs but the law is the law. I appreciate dog owners who leash their pets and are respectful of others and the law. Even dogs that are leashed should be restrained by their owners. I was once nipped by a passing dog, who surprised its owner by doing so.

  • Kathy March 17, 2015 (8:58 am)

    Dear prospective Seattle dog owner. You have a big heart so you are willing to take a pet into your family for the pet’s sake (rescue) or your own (companionship). Please don’t let your emotions cloud your judgement and understanding of the responsibilities of keeping a pet in a dense urban environment. A dog with excercise requirements greater than what you can keep up with at the end of a 6 foot leash is not the pet for you. In the city, our parks are preserves with laws to protect them and the people who enjoy them. You need to respect those laws. If you really must have a “free range” dog, you should consider living on a farm to provide it an adequate home environment.

  • wsgal March 17, 2015 (9:11 am)

    It’d be great if the city could monitor parks better, and actually fine people for walking their dogs without leashes. A dog nearly tripped me over the last time I was running in Lincoln Park, and the owner just shrugged it off with a laugh, “Oh dogs!” – uhhh not cool. I appreciate Sam’s work here!

  • Alan March 17, 2015 (9:15 am)

    I live next to where people park to go into the Duwamish Greenbelt. If they ever had the dog on leash, it generally gets unclipped as they go in. There is a huge ongoing effort to restore the greenbelt and this is damaging it. Not as much as the kids on motorbikes, but that’s another issue. I also get dogs running around my yard, but I’ve never seen anyone check to see if presents were left.

    I think that beyond many people just being jerks, most dog owners love their dog and think that everyone else should too. This was exemplified by a friend that posted an image of a pitbull with the statement “Sorry my pit bull went against your stereotypes and disappointingly licked your face instead of gnawing it off.” OK, 1. I really don’t want your dog licking my face and 2. I still require a change of underwear.

  • Out for a walk March 17, 2015 (9:17 am)

    So 38% of dogs are off lesh and he didn’t include the Lincoln Beach shoreline in his samples. This would be a simple way for City to collect fines and increase City’s income. Fines should be a fairly large amount too.

  • KM March 17, 2015 (9:23 am)

    Thank you! I stopped going to the park to walk my dogs years ago because of all the irresponsible dog owners breaking the law, letting their dogs run free. Leash your dogs or go to an off-leash park!

  • cj March 17, 2015 (9:26 am)

    The off leash dogs and their owners is one of the reasons I rarely go there anymore. Running into the remains of birds and squirrels ripped up is just not fun or relaxing, Most of the dog owners I see violating the leash and no beach rules for dogs are well dressed young men [though its been a while for me so others who see them may be doing it now too]and I remember seeing what looked like some people doing dog training classes in the park and off leash. Public parks have rules that apply to everyone. I really wish there were foot patrols that went though the parks and other public places. I think it would solve a lot of our problems. I saw a lot of dogs on leash get taken off leash once in the park.

  • datamuse March 17, 2015 (9:27 am)

    Good work, Sam! I’ve enjoyed reading about your research.
    RunningWild, good questions. A couple of people mentioned coyotes and bears already–it is in part a numbers game. Black bears, for example, are not particularly concentrated; each has a range of about 5 square miles in which that bear will be the only one. West Seattle has an area of a little under 8.5 square miles so would only have one or two bears. We have way more dogs here than that!
    Invasive plants were largely brought here by people, and part of their definition is “the ability to thrive and spread aggressively outside its native range.” That’s why English ivy and Himalayan blackberry are such problems–were it not for the restoration work in the West Duwamish Greenbelt, for example, that entire forest would be gone within our lifetimes because those invasive plants are crowding out other understory plants and even trees.
    The other thing is that wild animals are actually better at following trails than domestic dogs are. Spend some time in the woods and you’ll see game trails (the ones made by bears are particularly easy to spot because bears are so big). Wildlife doesn’t tend to go rooting around in the bushes unless there’s something to eat in there. Basically, go to your average dog park and take a look at the ground–you’re going to end up with dirt, not diversity.

  • AnonYMouse March 17, 2015 (9:49 am)

    Great article! Much thanks and appreciation to all who attempt to preserve our beautiful Lincoln Park for the enjoyment of everyone.

    I think dogs are wonderful and I’m a firm believer that humans who have them need to be responsible for the actions of their animals when outdoors. Great strides have been made in people picking up after their dogs, which shows that progress is possible. Doesn’t shared courtesy makes life more pleasant for everyone? Ditto, Mike!


    Enjoying the wonderful diversity of dogs is one of the pleasures of the park for me. Recently and uncharacteristically, I confronted somebody with two off leash dogs in Lincoln Park. When I spotted the first one, the owner wasn’t even in view. Meanwhile the dog is busy nosing into the contents of a baggie somebody left on the ground. Who knows what could’ve been in there – spoiled food, drugs, another dog’s waste? When the owner finally hove in view with another off-leash dog, I inquired politely whether they knew this was not an off leash park. They did know this, they replied. I then inquired whether they were simply choosing to disregard the leash rule, and they answered in the affirmative. Then I was accused of being the following: A Nazi. A leash Nazi. A person who liked to enforce rules for sake of enforcing rules. A person who did not like dogs. On and on it went. This person’s dogs weren’t doing any harm, I was told, they weren’t bothering me. I was simply a fascist rule enforcer. Wow!

    The gall of this person, and the ferocity of their verbal attack, was simply astonishing. Nowhere was there even a whiff of personal responsibility. What happened to you, ‘Oooh, you busted me. Little Fido and FiFi just love running off-leash, but let me go ahead and leash them.” How hard would that have been? Heck, they could have just gone ahead and unleashed them again when they were out of sight!


    Whether frightening people of any age who may be afraid of dogs, threatening or doing actual damage to the landscape, stressing sea creatures on the beach, being at risk of ingesting bad things, or encountering other animals and entering into a confrontation, I would urge owners such as the one I encountered to maybe realize that they aren’t alone in the park and try thinking about others for a change.


    Ha Ha! I’m kidding. If they had any regard for others, they would leash their dogs in the first place. Especially when off-leash dog parks do exists as a function of the collective action of dog owners who want a place for their dogs to run free.


    At the risk of sounding like a fascist rule enforcer (!) perhaps some enforcement of the leash laws is called for? A quick glance at the city web site says tickets can be issued for between $50 and $150 dollars. I only ever see parks employees riding around in trucks at Lincoln Park. Perhaps some Parks employees could undertake some foot patrols and issue verbal instructions to leash, and if those are ignored, issue tickets?


    The comment about the increasing population density of WS was well-made. As more and more people share the same amount of green space, courtesy and concern for others can help preserve the restorative experience of this fantastic park resource for everybody.

  • dsa March 17, 2015 (11:09 am)

    There is no excuse for off leash in the park, plain and simple. And thank you for your work.
    I have to comment that to say restoration to native “captures and filters air pollution” is an over reach. Why would native be a better cleanser than invasive?

  • Denise March 17, 2015 (12:06 pm)

    Wonderful article—thanks West Seattle Blog for bringing this difficult issue to light, and thanks to Sam for all his great work!

    Please leash your dogs! Nature cannot not withstand this growing problem indefinitely. Please think about nature, about wildlife, and about other people and other dogs. Keep ’em leashed!

  • DB Coop March 17, 2015 (12:17 pm)

    I won’t changing my dog walking habits anytime soon. While I appreciate the efforts to minimize invasive species, such as eliminating batches of ivy and non native blackberries, who asked this group to plant extra flora in our park? I’ve been very intimate with Lincoln Park for the better part of 50 years and one fact remains, the park has never had any problems growing it’s own flora or fauna. Ironically, the bamboo grove on the upper northwest corner is still there. Isn’t that just as invasive of species as anything these people pull out of the park?

    At least the kid will learn a good lesson in life that all your hard work can be erased in a heartbeat especially when nobody asked him to do it. I’m with onion, not many people are going to change their dog walking habits. get over it.

  • G March 17, 2015 (12:20 pm)

    What do we consider “invasive?” And when, and by what standards, do non-native species gain residency, so to speak? Coyotes and Barred Owls are non-native species that have thrived here. The Barred Owl preys on native owl populations (it has greatly accelerated the decline of Spotted Owls in other areas) and coyotes have probably been responsible for declining red fox populations in West Seattle. I argue that these species have had more effect on fauna than dogs, and yet few are calling for their removal. Nor should they.

    Having said that, as a matter of common courtesy, dog owners should keep pets leashed.

  • Oakley34 March 17, 2015 (12:40 pm)

    ^see above comment for what is wrong with society^

    Whether talking about driving habits or dog walking habits- change will not come without enforcement. Entitled and self-centered folks like Coop^ never see their behavior as contributing to any problem.

    I wish fines for off leash dogs and especially dog owners who don’t pick up their dogs’ waste were strictly enforced. I say this as a dog owner. I am sick of all the dog shit left all over WS (sometimes bagged, usually not). I am sick of having my dog get charged by off leash dogs when we walk in WS parks (not just Lincoln). It is not safe and not respectful.

    and yes, we need more OLAs. There are more dogs than kids in Seattle, and yet plenty more places for kids to be than dogs.

    and none of this is to mention the work being done to protect native plant species and preserve the parks we enjoy. Hard work that is being so readily dismissed by Coop and others.

    Let me rephrase for ya coop: “I’ve been tearing up and mistreating this park for the better part of 50 years, and I never asked this kid to repair the damage I have done and protect against future damages. I’ve been doing this for near 50 years, and the park will last till I die. Future generations be damned”

    Yeah that sounds about right. Get over yourself.

  • WS4life March 17, 2015 (12:41 pm)

    Great job Sam! I for one love dogs actually animals in general. And believe there is a time a place for them. As I grew up on a working farm. Where the animals worked with and for us. Not vice versa. They were never allowed in the house. City folks need only to look around at all the destruction to wildlife habit all around them.
    Suggestion you might try contacting Art Wolfe and get him on your side.

  • WiSguy March 17, 2015 (1:02 pm)

    Agree that dog owners do need to be responsible and leash any dog that isn’t under full control, especially if aggressive. A controlled and calm off-leash dog is fine with me though.

    We really don’t need more self-righteous folks walking through the park policing their neighbors. Nor do we need police wasting their time giving out citations. Remember the park is a human place as much as it is a natural one. I don’t think we can or should expect it to resemble a fully natural environment.

  • chuck and sally's van man March 17, 2015 (1:04 pm)

    @DB Coop: Thank you for sharing your entitled views with this forum. I look forward to the day when enforcement patrols are finally initiated and the city can profit off your selfish attitude–and others. Why the paper pushers have missed this (unburied, unscooped) gold mine I do not know. I’m willing to bet your lucky pooch is not licensed, either.

  • NeoYogi March 17, 2015 (1:15 pm)

    LEASH YOUR DOGS. I walk mine often on leash always and he’s a very sweet looking smallish spaniel that would rip your unleashed dog’s leg off if it bound up to him for a hello. I certainly don’t want that to happen and my rescued, previously abused, fearful and very old dog would not be to blame at all. LEASH YOUR DOGS. Why do so many people act like they are the only beings on the planet? Peaceful co-existence…is it too much to ask?

  • WS4life March 17, 2015 (1:16 pm)

    DB Coop in your 50 years of intimacy with the park what have you done to make it a better place? Actually hard work in and of itself is a great lesson. In fact the only real lesson to be learned from you is that old fools with antiquated ideas will soon be off this planet and the rest of us will have to clean up after you and yours buffoonery. And people commenting about invasive species but know not what they speak of, should cease to share their ignorance.

  • wakeflood March 17, 2015 (1:25 pm)

    Onion, DB Coop, you have clearly described the issue at hand. And it applies to a number of things in our not-so-polite society.

    That being that even when approached in a courteous and deferential manner, most folks just don’t ever think they’re in the wrong or should be questioned for any decision they make, regardless of impact on others.

    Methinks it’s the root of many of our societal ills. This just happens to be one that occurs so frequently that it really pisses folks off who might be trying to cover the scofflaw’s entitled a$$es and would appreciate a little courteous effort in return.

    Enjoy your day.

    • WSB March 17, 2015 (1:29 pm)

      This discussion on an always-touchy topic has been relatively civil so far and thank you all for that. I do want to remind about one rule, no suggestions of something that would do bodily harm to a living being, and we are declining to publish one comment that makes such a suggestion. Thanks for your understanding. If you ever see a comment that violates that rule or you otherwise think crosses a line that shouldn’t be crossed, please e-mail us at editor@westseattleblog.com – TR

  • datamuse March 17, 2015 (1:34 pm)

    who asked this group to plant extra flora in our park?
    That would be the Parks Department, in conjunction with Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy). As you’d know if you’d taken a few seconds to look it up.
    You might look up “tragedy of the commons” while you’re at it.

  • miws March 17, 2015 (1:36 pm)

    We really don’t need more self-righteous folks walking through the park policing their neighbors….


    Why, oh why, when someone (hopefully) politely and civilly points out an easy to follow law, that makes life safe and enjoyable for all people and other living beings, are they “self-righteous” in (some) people’s eyes…..



  • G March 17, 2015 (1:54 pm)

    Since we’re talking about non-native species, here’s an interesting article on the Barred Owl.


  • jwright March 17, 2015 (2:16 pm)

    Seattle Parks and Seattle Animal Shelter are going to be hiring more staff to patrol parks, so perhaps there is a higher likelihood of violators getting busted. And if you see people violating the leash laws, call the Seattle Animal Shelter Dispatch Center at 206-386-7387 ext 7 to file a complaint. If you have it, furnish a license plate or address and the officers will allegedly follow up.

  • G March 17, 2015 (2:24 pm)

    Oh and Sam, I appreciate your passion and how you’ve applied yourself, as I think we all do. As the WSB said, this subject tends to bring up strong emotions, but also thoughtful exchanges too. Keep an open mind and question everything. Good luck in life.

  • Wes C. Addle March 17, 2015 (2:58 pm)

    I kinda of agree with Wakeflood’s last post
    I don’t think the attitude is necessary reflective of just the unleashed dog population. To me it’s more of a reflection of society.
    We’re constantly bombarded and flooded with scenarios in the news and on TV with situations that are us vs. them.
    Democrat vs. Republican, Black vs. White, Rich vs. Poor. This to me is just a niche issue that stems from bigger societal problems.
    IMHO people are sick of one group always telling another group what to do so they boycott. What we’re left with is people not respecting each other.

  • Aimee March 17, 2015 (3:45 pm)

    Almost every person that I have encountered in Lincoln Park that isn’t walking a dog is plain rude with regard to dogs. Pull your head out of your rear and find smarter ways to communicate with people. You don’t own the city OR the park.

  • Wakeflood March 17, 2015 (4:32 pm)

    Wow, Aimee, that’s fairly opposite my experience. But thanks for the suggestion.

    May I add that I find your communication style really approachable?

  • HungryKids March 17, 2015 (4:51 pm)

    We walk our dog frequently in Lincoln Park and I have never had a single person, with or without a dog, be rude to us. Many times, they walk past engrossed in their own conversation, thoughts or simple enjoyment of the natural beauty. When they do interact with us, it is generally a pleasant “Good morning” or a “What a cute dog” comment. I can’t imagine why, if my behavior and my dog’s are not interfering with their enjoyment of the park, they would go out of their way to be rude. Is it possible that something you are doing is bringing out the worst in people?
    I think it would be fair to say that the taxpayers of Seattle DO own the park. Sam and the commenters are not suggesting excluding anyone from our park, just asking that everyone follow laws designed to protect the park and every park user’s enjoyment of it.
    And, Sam, add my giant thank you to the chorus of others for your hard work making our shared outdoor space more pleasant for everyone.

  • Pat March 17, 2015 (4:53 pm)

    Actually, yes, we do own the park. It’s a public resource supported by our tax dollars.
    I’ve watched my friends approach owners of off-leash dogs, and with the utmost politeness (not rude in any way) ask them to please obey the city’s laws in our shared public space. One such friend is small and elderly, with a highly wrinkled face, yet the huge guy she quietly and politely asked to leash his four huge dogs just about clocked her, fist drawn and ready to launch at my friend. (I have photo documentation.)
    If you don’t like the laws about off-leash dogs in our public spaces, work to change the laws. But citizens are within their rights to politely ask others to obey the law.
    I heartily applaud Sam’s work. I’m just surprised he counted only 38% of dogs off-leash. Most days I count at least 50%. Some days I’ve actually tallied it at 100%.

  • BWD March 17, 2015 (5:05 pm)

    The “rudeness” you claim to perceive is oft the result of frustration that cordial requests are ignored.
    I am not a dog owner. I have no issue with leashed dogs on marked trails whose owners watch their behavior and pick up after them. What I do object to is the attitude of the minority that the rules do not apply to your dog and if we don’t like it it is our problem. I have been called names that even I blush to say and been physically rushed for cordially asking an owner to move their dog away from me. It must be because I have my head up my rear that I can’t see that it is my fault.

    I hope you have a less angry evening. I hope I do as well.

  • sueb March 17, 2015 (5:06 pm)

    I am also a dog owner and love letting my dogs run off leash, generally at the off-leash parks but occasionally other places. For all of you who suggest that we dog owners get off our lazy butts and establish more off leash areas listen up. When the OLA’s were first proposed, there were so many opponents it was amazing. The amount of energy needed to convince people that OLA’s are a good thing was crazy. Every time someone mentioned putting in an OLA, there was someone else with a reason why that was not a good spot. It was like pulling teeth to get the OLA’s that we have and there are not nearly enough of them. If there is enough enforcement of clean up laws, I don’t see why dogs can’t run free on school fields, if they are not being used, or have a small area in every city park that had at least some off leash times so that people don’t have to drive across the city for their recreation.

  • lovedogs_hateseattledogowners March 17, 2015 (5:16 pm)

    Officers patrol in Seattle parks to ensure the safe and appropriate use of both the off-leash and on-leash areas. Fines for off-leash, license and scooping violations range from $50 to $150, and can be $500 at a beach.

    Has anyone ever seen an officer writing tickets for off leash dogs? I haven’t.

    I’m surprised at how stupid Seattle off leash dog owners are with their own dogs safety. Undeniable morons.

  • miws March 17, 2015 (5:41 pm)

    I don’t see why dogs can’t run free on school fields….


    sueb, I don’t know how much you have followed any dogs+parks related discussions here on WSB, both in related article comments, and/or forum comments, but others have pointed out that a downfall of dogs on school playfields, is both urine residue, and fecal residue, even when the major amount of the poop has been picked up, and the fact that kids tend to make pretty thorough contact with the grass, when playing on the fields.



  • JayDee March 17, 2015 (6:15 pm)

    @Sam: Bravo! I appreciate your hard work at one of my favorite parks.

    As a science major the university I attended made me take a philosophy class as part of my general education. Every so often a story reminds of a philosophical point-of-view: “Solus Ipsus”, or roughly, “I Alone Exist”. A person with this POV assumes they are the only real person and that all others are a figment of their active imaginations and hence their concerns can be dismissed.

    While this point of view is fictional, many of the off-leash dog posters seem to exhibit it, except perhaps it should be “Only I and My Dog Exist”

    Lincoln Park is a grand park whose owners have to defend it from irresponsible dog owners, and zip-line profiteers. Keep up the struggle to remind errant dog owners that we and the leash laws exist, and that we are not just inconvenient figments.

  • AHNeighbors March 17, 2015 (7:38 pm)

    Thank you sincerely, Sam! As a runner and dog lover whose awesome pal has recently retired to doggy heaven, I have always obeyed leash laws without even realizing the damage to plants and trauma to wildlife that our unleashed dogs cause! I appreciate the education!

  • barbara March 17, 2015 (8:09 pm)

    thanks for the work you do.
    I volunteer for seal sitters and we are battling this problem on the beach. I really wish there were more animal control people at the park so people wouldn’t be so willing to disobey the laws.

  • Julie March 17, 2015 (8:09 pm)

    “hoping that people feel empowered to talk to those not following the rules, to say “please don’t do it,”” Oh, Sam! Thank you for your work; yes, I want to keep speaking up. But I have yet to experience a polite response to a polite request, and the responses have become ever more aggressive and unpleasant. It’s taking more courage than I have, to dare to whisper that “please”….

  • Donna March 17, 2015 (9:54 pm)

    Thanks to Sam and the amazing volunteers that put in much hard work so that we can all enjoy the native beauty of our parks! Without such dedication the tree canopy would eventually die off…leaving us an essentially treeless park system!

    I am a huge dog lover! Now that our beloved Jazzy at 14 years went onto doggy heaven I rely upon other folks’ pup-sharing to get my doggy “fix”. However, last time I was in Deadhorse Canyon taking a break on the bench up the train I had three large dogs come tearing out and jump up on me. “Surprised” doesn’t properly convey all that I felt! While the owner of the dogs finally arrived and mumbled “sorry” there was no effort made to leash the dogs nor any offer to clean my very obviously mud covered coat.

    When our dog was alive we couldn’t take her for a stroll in many parks because of so many out of control dogs off leash. That was really sad and actually makes me mad too!

    Yep, off leash dogs are a HUGE problem in Seattle City Parks and very little has been done to correct the situation. I noticed that the City of Bellingham provides SERIOUS signage that informs dog owners of legal guidelines (without trying to be “cute” about it) that must be followed to use the park space.

    Seattle needs to deal with the problem of off leash dogs by posting animal control officers at the parks to issue citations AFTER a period of public education and posting legal use guidelines. The present approach hasn’t worked for 20 year. Do we really think the problems of vegetation damage, fecal piles, frightened leashed dogs and “surprised” mud covered parkgoers will go away without changes? Let’s wise up!

  • Thomas M March 17, 2015 (10:18 pm)

    The off leash parks generally suck. West Crest is OK, but my little poodle does not go out with the big dogs or the big aholes in the chuck-it area below.

    Is there some reason why the other dog parks are at ridiculous slopes or are where no sane person would go unarmed?

    Dog Parks don’t have to suck. I find it worth the trip to take my dog out to the Bellevue dog park across from BCC. There is a GREAT dog park on Military down near the 516.

    The worst dog park I have ever seen in my life is in Puyallup. It is a fenced off area of mostly rocks. What crap that is.

    I never let my pooch off lease anywhere but at dog parks. It’s not fair to anyone and could lead to a very bad result for people or pet.

  • Mike March 17, 2015 (11:19 pm)

    Man, long article and lots of angry people. Just a note, squirrels in the park do more to move seeds around than dogs. Just saying.

  • au March 18, 2015 (10:04 am)

    personally i wish dogs could run free in more places,(we actually proposed a dog run in ballard to sdot, they hated the idea)
    It seems to me we could use many more places for off leash dogs. It breaks my heart to think of an urban dog always needing to be either confined or constrained. For me to spend 30 plus minutes a day driving to let a dog get a bit of exercise makes no sense either. Hence we won’t get a dog here again (way too much hostility too btw on both ends me thinks!)
    The more i think about it i am beginning to realize that this is an issue of equity. We are allowed to have pets, dogs in this instance, and dogs require exercise, in some parts of the city space is available within walking distance to exercise the dogs, other areas require owners to have access to a personal vehicle to exercise their dog. This is not equitable. Perhaps we can work towards a solution instead of this endless back and forth…)

    although no dogs in the restoration areas of parks!…
    i think we all can understand that recently [recent in geological time, not internet time] planted young plants will not survive being dug up, trampled and pissed on repeatedly. That’s what dogs do when they get to be dogs, often they run around like maniacs inadvertently destroying intentionally planted landscapes. If these plants aren’t allowed to grow there will be no plants here in the future. What will our world look like in 100 yrs?
    Some are questioning what it means to be invasive or not, native or non.
    Invasive species are a large problem for the future of our ecosystems, if you google it you will find much information on the effects and causes plus formal definitions of an invasive species.
    The basic concept is that a hardy vigorous plant enters an area and takes over, completely (more or less) killing off diversity. This one effect on the ecosystem does exponential harm. For example, many critters now have lost their habitat and cannot feed from the altered environment. Eventually there will be no more beneficial insects as their habitat will have been overtaken with invasive plant species.
    The reason nature cannot recover without our assistance is because we have decimated the landscape’s ecosystems and must restore them back to a semblance of a state of equilibrium in order for nature to be able to take care of itself again. We will always need to monitor and remove invasives. One million hours annually in pacific northwest region alone, is my rough guesstimate of the hours volunteers have dedicated to the removal of invasive species, particularly english ivy and Himalayan blackberry and there is plenty more work to do!

    This is an interesting intersection of two diverse topics, just shows how interrelated we all are.

  • wakeflood March 18, 2015 (11:12 am)

    au: here’s the thing. Your argument about what needs to be supported by at least a majority of taxpayers/citizens amounts to the following:

    Owning a dog of a certain size/makeup that REQUIRES OPEN SPACE to have a good life and poop and pee, etc. is essentially a RIGHT of an urban dweller.

    I think that’s BS.

    It’s at BEST, a privilege that comes with the responsibility of ensuring that the OWNER will go where they need to go to give the pet its space and will follow the laws and clean up after it.

    There’s a REASON you don’t see many, if any big dogs in Manhattan.

    Want more of those open spaces but “oh gee, open space in dense urban areas is hard to find and expensive and not everyone wants a dog park in their neighborhood, yada yada…?” DUH! This is common sense to most.

    I have NO – as in ZERO – sympathy for that plight. It’s self-generated and has a remedy. Go do the work to change the laws and/or make some open space. Better yet, get a pet that doesn’t require you to have half an acre of free running space to live.

    Pet owner’s poor planning and laziness should NOT impact the rest of us.

  • Scog March 18, 2015 (11:43 am)

    As a former dog lover, and current small child haver, I have come to detest irresponsible pet owners allowing their dogs to profoundly reduce my enjoyment of common urban space. Again, I say irresponsible pet owners, not pet owners in general. It started when I had to take dramatic steps to protect my toddler from idiots and their aggressive power dogs. It’s sad to me that children are far more likely to be hurt from domestic animals in residential areas, than wild animals in natural settings. And on and on, are the many ways poorly owned dogs trounce civil protocols.

    So, the problem is- pet owners refuse to follow the laws of the park. Here’s an idea! How about we all pitch in a few bucks to pay an extra shift parks guy to ticket offenders?
    Fining offenders is apparently the only way to maintain a satisfactory level of compliance.
    The cost if enforcement would be easily offset by fine collection- even providing income that could be used to restore damage caused by off leash dogs..

  • Mark Ahlness March 18, 2015 (1:09 pm)

    I counted on/off leash dogs while on ten walks in the forested part of Lincoln Park during January and February. Of the 99 dogs I saw, 34 were off leash, very similar to Sam’s data. Good luck Sam, and thanks!

  • MarcO March 18, 2015 (2:51 pm)

    Truth be told I occasionally let me dog run free while in Lincoln Park – and other parks in West Seattle including beaches. Why? Because I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. He’s not one that tears through brush, chases animals and not very interested in other people or dogs, so he rarely ventures more than 8-10 feet from my side. He enjoys a round or two of fetch – usually on the grass play fields or the beach.
    If you ask me, I’ll politely comply and put his leash back on until you leave.
    Why don’t I take him to a dog park? because I’d have to load him up in the car and drive since the closest one is more than 5 miles away. Once there he’d be mixed with a bunch of strange dogs, many who aren’t trained and some that are just aggressive. He enjoys walking more than getting swarmed by a pack of dogs.
    So, sorry but I’ll continue to let him enjoy the beaches and parks off leash and yet be mindful of keeping him from damaging the parks and beaches – less so that your average human. You can categorize me as one of those dog owners but the truth, as always, is usually a shade of gray.

  • wakeflood March 18, 2015 (4:46 pm)

    So MarcO, let me ask you a question, if I may?

    Glad that you take care to limit your illegal impact but what do you do when you see other owners who clearly DON’T? Do you talk to them? If yes, what do you say?

    If not, why not?

  • flimflam March 18, 2015 (5:25 pm)

    so, MarcO, what you really mean is that you and your dog are special and don’t need to worry about laws that are inconvenient? nice.

  • jwright March 18, 2015 (5:48 pm)

    MarcO, you are aware that dogs are not allowed on beaches at all, regardless whether they are on a leash or not, right?

  • MarcO March 19, 2015 (9:44 am)

    no, not special just willing to take the risk. Let me ask you, do you ever speed, throw a cigarette butt on the ground, drink a beer in a public park, J-walk, do you throw food away in your trash? Chances are everyone on this board can answer yes, and it’s really no different than letting my dog off the leash. oh wait, but those are different.

    yes, I’m aware that dogs are not allowed on the beach.

  • Wakeflood March 19, 2015 (10:48 am)

    MarcO, you didn’t respond to my question.

    You surely encounter plenty of folks who don’t have any regard for their dog’s impact or following the law.

    Do you talk to them about it? If yes, what do you say and how is it responded to?

    If not, why not?

    C’mon, give us some insight into what goes through your mind when you see someone doing the “worse” version of what you do?

  • miws March 19, 2015 (11:30 am)

    Let me ask you, do you ever speed, throw a cigarette butt on the ground, drink a beer in a public park, J-walk, do you throw food away in your trash?


    That argument is SO old.


    So, MarcO, one question, out of many that come to mind, in you allowing your dog to run off-leash; what happens if it approaches a baby seal on Alki, before Seal Sitters has been notified and set-up a containment area, and attacks the seal? Even if your dog is the friendliest pup in the world, and want to be the seal’s buddy, doesn’t physically hurt it, but distresses it anyway?


    Oh, just one more question, since it came to mind as I was typing this, what about the Lincoln Park Geese, which have been attacked by off-leash dogs on more than one occasion?



  • MarcO March 19, 2015 (11:33 am)

    who am I to say something to someone else about their dog when I let mine off the leash?
    what goes through my mind? when I see someone speeding I think to myself, that person must have some reason to speed, he’s decided the risk is worth taking. yes, there are laws against speeding but I’m not the police and I admittedly speed on occasion. When I see someone speeding and cutting people off or someone that is driving 40 miles an hour on the freeway and no regard for anyone else – I think they’re being a jackass.

    So I guess I’d answer you by saying if I saw someone that had an aggressive dog off leash, or one that chases animals, one that poops and the owner doesn’t clean it up, or one that is just destructive in general – I’d think to myself – what a jackass.

  • WiSguy March 19, 2015 (11:46 am)

    Similar to MarcO, I make a risk/judgment call when letting my dog off leash in a park. I do it in a clearing when there aren’t other dogs/people around. Usually, let her run/fetch for a few minutes and then put her back on. I think that’s reasonable behavior, even if technically illegal. Just like looking both ways before crossing the street even though the walk signal isn’t on. As MarcO says, people make these kinds of judgment calls all the time.

    If I do see someone acting irresponsible with their dog(s), I don’t say anything unless I feel they are endangering others. Usually, I just steer clear – you’re not going to change such a person’s behavior because you’re really just imposing your values (environmentally pristine park) against theirs (love of their dogs and their freedom to make judgment calls). You will lose every time.

  • marco March 19, 2015 (2:56 pm)

    @miws lol. uh, yeah lived in WS for about 15 years now, walked the beaches regularly those 15 years. Came across a baby seal exactly twice. Once with my dog on a leash and my kids running free. Seal sitter rudely told us not to come near the ribboned off area (what? if we shouldn’t approach the ribboned off area maybe you should have made the ribbon bigger??) and one other time with just my dog on a leash. I guess I’d feel the same as if I ran over a raccoon or a possum in the road. oops, that sucks.

  • miws March 19, 2015 (3:51 pm)

    Wow, just wow, marco….



  • Wakeflood March 19, 2015 (4:07 pm)

    WiSguy, I’m not imposing my values, I’m attempting to impose society’s. The good of the many. Which, granted, has limited impact on those who choose their benefit over all others. And of course I’m not speaking about the occasional decision to be a scofflaw but the consistent one that serves not as a minor embarrassing “sorry mate”, but rather a repeated flipping of the bird to the community.

    There’s a difference.

  • Ellen Escarcega March 26, 2015 (12:42 pm)

    Hi everyone following this thread — I am Ellen Escarcega, the Chair of Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA), the non-profit that advocated for the 14 off-leash areas Seattle currently has (25 acres citywide where dogs are allowed off-leash, more than half of which is in 2 parks). We currently have far less off-leash acreage than most major metropolitan areas, and thus are seeing a lot of makeshift off-leash usage of our park system. We are working very hard to have more official areas, so unofficial and damaging use will decline — please join us at http://seattlecola.org. Also Sam Timpe, I’d love to talk to you about your research paper/presentation.

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