@ Delridge Neighborhoods District Council: Off-leash dog plan moving too quickly and quietly? Plus, Find It/Fix It followup

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Popcorn and cheering.

Those were the highlights of the opening moments of this month’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center this past Wednesday night.

Chair Mat McBride wasn’t kidding when he declared it was an “exciting lineup.”

The cheering was for each person in attendance, as they went around the room to have everyone introduce her/himself. Extra cheers were awarded to three community members who showed up just to see what was happening in their neighborhood. By way of explanation, West Seattle has two city-determined “districts,” Southwest and Delridge, and the council for each district includes reps from neighborhood councils and major organizations/institutions in the area. Those in attendance at this meeting Wednesday night included reps from the Camp Long Advisory Council, Delridge Neighborhood Development Association, Highland Park Action Committee, Highland Park Improvement Club, High Point Open Spaces Association, North Delridge Neighborhood Council, Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council, Seattle Nature Alliance, Southwest Precinct, Southwest Youth and Family Services, Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council. City reps included neighborhood district coordinator Kerry Wade, and reps from the mayor’s office and Seattle Parks, there to talk about scheduled agenda items.

Parks’ move toward a new plan for off-leash dog areas was the spotlight topic. But first:

PUBLIC SAFETY SURVEY PITCH: Every community meeting is getting this pitch one more time, before the survey ends November 30th. You can voice your sentiments about everything from police to crime. Seattle U research intern Jennifer Burbridge, who’s been working with the Southwest Precinct, says SU will analyze the data and present it back to SPD, hoping to tailor efforts and outreach to neighborhoods’ view of SPD, for example. Some of the results will be made publicly available, though they haven’t figured out how yet. The Southwest Precinct area has provided 1,000 of the 6,500 responses citywide so far. The survey starts here.

MOBILE PRECINCT UPDATE: New Community Police Team Officer Clayton Powell told the DNDC that the new “mobile precinct” should finally be in action soon, and he expects to spend some time driving it. He’s a recent transfer from the East Precinct.

FIND IT, FIX IT UPDATE: A month and a half after the mayor and a small army of city employees, including more than half a dozen department heads, came to Delridge for a “Find It, Fix It” walk (WSB video/photo/text coverage here), his office sent a representative – Americorps intern Hilary Nichols – with an update. We photographed the handout:

A few more details – the Delridge P-Patch will get three new security lights, locations TBA; the city Office of Economic Development is working with the Delridge Grocery team and “trying to help them succeed” in the wake of their loan denial; in all, “what we’re learning on the (FIFI) walks this year are NOT ‘quick fixes’.”

When the council was asked if any other concerns had arisen, WWRHAH’s Amanda Kay Helmick voiced concern about drivers parking cars “almost in the crosswalk” recently installed at Louisa Boren K-8 STEM, starting point for the walk. SWYFS’s Ron Angeles brought up the need for interpreters so events like the FIFI walk could include more community members. DNDA’s Willard Brown brought up the ongoing dumping problems near Sanislo Elementary.

PEOPLE, DOGS, PARKS STRATEGIC PLAN: This is what was previously called the Off-Leash Area Strategic Plan, but evolved via a somewhat-under-the-radar process that’s been under way at Seattle Parks. The discussion at DNDC began with Susan Golub from parks superintendent Jesús Aguirre‘s office, who said, “We have no plan yet.” Parks was directed to come up with a plan for off-leash areas a while back, but, she continued, “we didn’t start that right away, didn’t have funding or staff” until creation of the Seattle Park District was approved by voters in August 2014, including funding to “improve off-leash areas.” So some of the Park District’s first-year funding is being used to develop a plan: “How can we improve what we have now, what is the demand for off-leash areas, what do other cities do …” The draft plan is due out in the first quarter of next year; when it’s out, they’ll invite the public to comment. They did a survey – we mentioned it here last summer, though it was announced by the Coalition for Off-Leash Areas, not by the department – and they’ve since done seven focus groups involving people who identified with certain sentiments – including people who were afraid of dogs, “because we know they won’t be organizing peple to come to meetings …” Golub acknowledged that offleash dogs are the highest source of complaints in parks and said there will soon be a team patroling parks for leash and scoop violations, an animal-control officer and a Parks staffer.

“Could the outcome [of the process] be more offleash parks or elimination of offleash parks?” she was asked.

The latter was unlikely, Golub said, but regarding the former, Parks has heard loud and clear that some are just too small. “There might be some expansion … we have an estimate of 150,000 dogs in the city, 112,000 dog owners, they’re looking for ways to recreate with their dogs offleash … so we need to recognize that as a demand in the city, and have to balance that with (park use for everyone) including people who don’t want to be around offleash dogs …”

Another question: Is Parks looking at new parkland (for off-leash-area expansion) or using existing parkland?

The OLA policy says “our policy is to look at non-Parks land first,” said Golub.

What kind of outreach has been done so far? She wasn’t sure how the focus groups had been chosen but said they’re very aware of the need to work harder at obtaining diverse feedback, since the organized off-leash-area-advocacy community is mostly a “middle-class, white community.”

Also noted: There’s been interest in specific hours at parks for off-leash use – for example, in another city it’s 9 pm to midnight, in yet another, it’s 6 am to 9 am: “We have been asking people about that in the focus groups.”

Back to “where” – Golub insisted they won’t expand in regional parks such as Lincoln, Discovery, Seward. “We’re going to look for areas. But what we heard in the survey and in focus groups … people want offleash areas they can walk to from their homes … we’re going to have to balance that but … you’re not going to put that higher than our environmental ethics.”

Those ethics were highlighted in a comment from West Seattle naturalist and botanist Stewart Wechsler, who mentioned the preponderance of dogs in parks and the damage they can do, tearing up vegetation, churning up the soil, leaving it vulnerable to weeds. (We covered this issue earlier this year.)

It was pointed out that while West Seattle has a large dog population – and that increasing density will increase that too – it has very little off-leash area, just the one at Westcrest Park in Highland Park, toward the southeastern edge of WS.

Next, the Seattle Nature Alliance, which had two reps at the meeting – Denise Dahn and Mark Ahlness – took its turn on the topic. Dahn read a statement – see it here – saying they’re concerned with some of the issues that Parks is bringing up. They advocate for passive use, wild nature, wildlife, etc. She said she attended a focus group and left the meeting with deep concern. SNA wants the process for the plan to be put on hold until “some critical problems could be resolved.” (Their letter to Parks is here.) The Alliance “support(s) off-leash recreation in appropriate places,” but believes the process so far has not been inclusive or impartial, and that it’s been “misleading.”

Dahn said the offleash area options presented at her focus group included 6 never tried in Seattle. Among them:

*Unfenced offleash areas in regional parks where dogs could run free at certain times of day
*Offleash on nature trails
*Offleash on beaches

She said those last two received unanimous yes votes from all the dog owners in her group, and “this is the crux of our concern.”

She expressed concern that the process will be very short regarding public meetings, once a draft plan is made available, and while the “offleash group will be prepared” – it has a formal stewardship relationship with the city, Golub noted – most of the public is unaware that this process is even under way, but deserves to have months of notice, not weeks (this online timeline indicates 2 weeks). Also, Dahn observed, other “important stakeholders” – such as Audubon, forest stewards, Seal Sitters – have not been invited into the process so far. So that’s why they are asking Parks to put it on hold and “restart.” Off-leash use is “indisputably high-impact recreation, and Seattle Parks have traditionally been reserved for low-impact. At what point did any form of high-impact recreation become an option?”

Some around the room chimed in that they hadn’t been aware this process was under way either – including chair McBride, who is involved with Parks as a volunteer, and district coordinator Wade. It emerged at this point that the discussion at DNDC hadn’t been suggested by Parks but instead by SNA, who suggested that the council “might want to know about this.” The alliance itself has its roots in another Parks issue that did not come to light widely until the department had been working on it for a while, the scrapped 2012 Lincoln Park GoApe plan.

What’s next? Watch this page. And if you have feedback, use this form.

The Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meets on third Wednesdays, 7 pm, at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. No regular meeting in December, though; the group voted to gather informally and voluntarily at the Highland Park Improvement Clubs Corner Bar event on December 4th.

25 Replies to "@ Delridge Neighborhoods District Council: Off-leash dog plan moving too quickly and quietly? Plus, Find It/Fix It followup"

  • Sandy Beach November 21, 2015 (2:40 am)

    The only beach off-leash area I’ve encountered was in San Diego. You could smell the dog pee from a mile away. I don’t advocate exposing our sea-life to such gross lifestyle. Walkers could use more beach accessible to all the people, not less.
    Some areas in the forest of Lincoln park where fewer people walk come to mind, but should a dog park take precedence over the wild animals there? The owls and woodpeckers, among many other animals and plants, need true green spaces.

    You might work a little for your dog’s “rights.” If you want your dog to be happy, work to be happy in your home. Give her a massage or go visit a farm who could profit from providing land for your dog. Farms might need your money or your help. Volunteer to weed or pick some fruit while you run your dog on someone else’s farm. Hmm… how about the fruit tree farm at South Seattle College? Do y’all need volunteers and is there room for a dog run?
    We’ve torn down lots of the farms in the Duwamish valley. We could tear up some pavement now. Dog owners’ money could buy that land, build dog parks. If there’s anything left – and there should be because we have so many dog owners with money – then the homeless who now have full support if they’re American citizens, could have some more camps built.

  • CD November 21, 2015 (7:15 am)

    In Oregon the entire coastline is free for dogs to rome off leash on the beach, I believe. Maybe if you’re considering nature trails and beaches for off leash areas we should also talk about what “voice control of your dog” actually means. I am in favor of designated fenced in areas for dogs but however, if you can demonstrate that with a click or whistle or clap, etc..your dog responds appropriately then you and your dog(s) should be allowed to roam in designated pet friendly trails and beach areas. All this beneficial salt water here and not one place I can take them swimming without worry of a 500$ fine and disapproving looks. I believe there are places in Medina (?) that have signs at the parks that require you to have voice control in order to have you dog off leash at the park. I don’t think the dogs should be running around everywhere but a half a dozen or so spots along from Lincoln Park to Golden Gardens it would be nice to be able to let them swim. Maybe a way to raise money is to have classes on how to have better off leash control of your dogs and the money can go right back into planning and developing. Please don’t let this be another project where all the money is spent planning with no results in the long run.

  • Rick November 21, 2015 (7:42 am)

    But you must understand, it’s all about me and my “rights”.

  • Jack November 21, 2015 (7:42 am)

    I walk Lincoln Park frequently and see many dog owners letting their dogs run free along the paths in the woods. I go there for the quiet that the park offers in the middle of our busy city, not to get barked at on a trail from an off-leash dog.
    When I have said something to the owners, not ONCE did any of them apologize. Dog owners seem to think the parks are there for their use and don’t care about other people’s quality time in the parks.

  • Elle Nell November 21, 2015 (7:49 am)

    I have to say, our shoreline is much smaller sensitive and MUST be protected to keep it healthy..
    If dogs start running free at the beaches and parks, our wildlife will find other safer environments to reside.
    Those who are pushing for this need to understand OUR very special and sensitive ecosystem. Clearly if you did you would put your energy into something for the greater good not another idea to deplete our amazing land. Which in turn would not be amazing any longer..
    Sandy Beach has some great ideas for the “unhappy” dog owners who don’t feel they have enough space.. I myself, being a multi dog owner, love the exercise we all get on runs and walks that we do daily… Get creative people and please inform yourself of the land we all SO love before making brash decisions that would destroy our natural systems…

  • KM November 21, 2015 (8:03 am)

    Fort Funston is another great beach off-leash dog area. Possibly my all time favorite. Happy pups and families everywhere.

  • Neutral November 21, 2015 (8:11 am)

    I don’t take my dog to off-leash areas much because people and their dogs can be ridiculous, even to other dog-havers BUT there is a beach in Shoreline (Richmond Beach) that is an off-leash area during the winter months and it doesn’t reek of dog pee. Maybe because we get more rain than San Diego. Not sure it’s the right choice for Lincoln Park, but it can work.

  • Denise November 21, 2015 (8:28 am)

    Thanks WSB, for covering this issue. Once again, the WSB is on top of things that the others miss.

    I would like to make a tiny correction in one of the quotes attributed to me. It should say “natural Parklands”, and “natural places”. This is an important distinction because there are lots of high-impact uses in parks, and the Seattle Nature Alliance does not oppose them – as long as they are not in natural places.

    “Off-leash use is “indisputably high-impact recreation, and Seattle (natural parklands) Parks have traditionally been reserved for low-impact. At what point did any form of high-impact recreation become an option (for natural places)?”

    Seattle Nature Alliance

  • Lagartija Nick November 21, 2015 (9:44 am)

    I don’t think having more off leash areas will make any difference. I frequent both Woodland park and Magnuson park. Both have very large off leash areas and yet EVERY time I walk around those parks there are a dozen off leash dogs running around, often within yards of the off leash areas. I will never understand why people do the things they do, but it is pretty obvious that some people will always flout the law even if it is convenient for them not to.

  • teacher/mom November 21, 2015 (10:05 am)

    There is an off leash beach area in Edmonds just south of the marina. It’s been there for years and is a busy summer spot for swimming. It is a fenced off area between the railroad tracks and the parking lot, open to the Sound.

  • JP November 21, 2015 (11:48 am)

    I can’t believe how many anti-dog people commented here! Seriously, people are worried about dog pee washing into Puget Sound when there is huge industrial waste and storm runoff going into the Sound every day? We live in a city and dogs are not going away. Do you want Seattle to turn into New York City where there is no where to take dogs and they end up using the sidewalks to do “their business”? Toughen up anti-dog Seattleites….if you come across a dog in a park and it ruins your walk for 5 minutes, maybe you need an attitude change.

  • brizone November 21, 2015 (12:19 pm)

    So sick of hearing irresponsible dog owners framing this as some kind of attitude problem amongst other citizens who don’t actually enjoy someone else’s dog jumping all over them, or running at their own dog, or frightening their kids. But hey, the law doesn’t apply to you, right? Of course not. Just other people.

    The attitude of entitlement and utter selfishness of certain dog owners is what has polarized this issue, NOT some group of “anti-dog” people. And it’s not about dog pee, it’s about the dog s–t that you don’t feel like cleaning up, either.

    Dogs are wonderful. It’s not the dogs who are the problem: it’s the owners.

  • Enid November 21, 2015 (12:31 pm)

    Unless federal wildlife enforcement officers will be on beaches full time, allowing dogs free run of beaches is an absurd idea. Not long ago I watched in horror as an off-leash dog caught, killed, and ravaged a young cormorant, while the owner with her young child stood by and did nothing. These birds are federally protected. I would have loved to have seen this woman marched out of the park in handcuffs. We are fortunate to have wildlife on our shores and beaches, rather than barren, lifeless expanses dotted with dog waste.

    JP, if you think having more raw sewage dumped into Puget Sound is ducky idea, maybe you’re the one who needs an attitude change. And btw, most of the pro-leash proponents are themselves dog owners and dog lovers – so your name calling is not only childish, it’s irrelevant.

  • Oakley34 November 21, 2015 (12:44 pm)

    as a dog owner I agree with brizone. The entitlement of SOME (not all, probably not most) dog owners gives all of us a bad look. Part of the problem is lack of enforcement (though I’m told there are occasional off leash and license checks both at Lincoln parks and at various OLAs). Nearly every time I go to Lincoln there are dogs off leash on the beach just yards away from the signs about seal pups, marine life etc. Dog poop is a scourge on our sidewalks and parking strips, and is a huge and everyday middle finger thrown to the rest of the world by disrespectful dog owners.
    All this is a matter of perspective of course. I’m sure some people think I’m part of the problem when I run my dog off leash in the large, soon to be developed parcel in High Point on 35th…but I would never let her off leash in our parks or greenbelts. Too much work goes into preserving these spaces, and while one dog off leash will not tear up these places we mustn’t all act as if we are the exception. Also our fellow citizens have the right to recreate in our parks without fear (rational or otherwise) of an off leash dog charging them etc. On the flip side: we DO need more off leash space in this city (or we will going forward). We rightfully spend parks money to build and refurb playgrounds for kids…there were as many dogs as kids in Seattle (I think per the 2010 census but I am usually wrong about numbers) and we should be accommodating them as well. It’s a bit sad and even a little surprising this issue is so contentious. Do I want a spot for my girl to swim? Heck yes, but not at the expense of marine habitat nor at the expense of the goodwill of our neighbors.

  • JP November 21, 2015 (1:08 pm)

    Enid: I did not name call. How about re-reading my post? And, if my post was irrelevant, you wouldn’t have commented on it. As I already said, dogs are not going away. How about accepting this? Not all dog owners are irresponsible. If you do not want any encounters with dogs, then go live somewhere where there aren’t any.

  • chemist November 21, 2015 (2:31 pm)

    I wish some of those who are dog lovers would take a play out of the “backyard wildlife sanctuary” playbook and turn their fenced-in yards into the neighborhood off-leash dog park. We just need a standardized yard sign and a centralized map.

  • JoAnne November 21, 2015 (3:06 pm)

    I love the attitude of some of these dog people…”We’ve moved in to your community, and we want our dogs to poop up your environment. If you don’t like it, move!”

  • Linda November 21, 2015 (4:41 pm)

    I think people should have priority over dogs. It is ok for your dog to walk with a leash through out an entire park. Off leash areas are areas where dogs have priority which is nice but it should not over lap with the main use of parks. Parks are for everyone. I find owners with dogs angry if asked to pick up their dogs waste, leash in leash areas and when asked to control over excited dogs that rush up to you and are in your space. If the beach was open to dogs unleashed it would take away from people. The dogs would have priority over the space just like they do currently in the unleashed dog areas now. I can’t imagine how people would react if asked to control their dog in areas where they feel that dogs are allowed. Currently, I avoid all those places for that reason.

    Non dog owner who loves her parks.

  • Sonic November 21, 2015 (8:51 pm)

    Howarth Park in Everett has an off leash dog beach right on the Sound, and it doesn’t smell at all like urine. It’s right next to a beach that isn’t off leash, and the two areas seems to coexist pretty well. This off leash beach has been in existence for over ten years so it must not creating mass mayhem for people or wildlife.

  • MsD November 21, 2015 (9:02 pm)

    I lived most of my life in the South and the arguments about dogs there are more along the lines of whether it’s OK to keep them chained up to a tree without shelter 24x7x365. I am about the biggest dog lover in the world, but dogs, like children, need to be kept in check with the understanding that their rights to run free and crazy end where other sentient beings’ rights begin. I guess common sense and mutual respect is too much to ask in the land of the entitled.

  • ES November 22, 2015 (8:12 pm)

    I feel some might be missing the point. As a dog parent, I’m not asking that parks be open for dogs to roam freely nor am I asking for acres and acres of land or beachfront access. I’m asking for a small section of our abundant, under-used neighborhood parks to have a fenced area where my dog can run freely, sniff other dogs’ behinds and chase after a tennis ball. I live within blocks of 3 huge, grassy, beautiful parks where 95% of the space is rarely used. The only “wildlife” present at these parks are crows and seagulls. I guarantee if a small, fenced-in off-leash area were added, that space would be teeming with activity.

  • New WSeattlelite November 23, 2015 (8:49 am)

    Dogs, Dogs, Dogs. With all the other issues… This is what you banter about? How about the worthless FIFI walk that virtually did nothing to help or change the issues that were brought up. There were more City employees than community members and it just appeared to be a great big ole photo op for the Mayor. I am sure the resources to do this far outweigh positive out comes.

  • Sandy Beach November 23, 2015 (10:20 am)

    Dear ES,
    Your point is valid, (and New WSeattlelite get used to it) I see my friend who drives a huge SUV with her shepherd across the city, in traffic nonetheless, to allow this dog to roam in the off leash dog area in Columbia City.
    There are grassy areas where people with voice-controlled dogs, more or less, allow them to run. If it were fenced in dog park, you could save some gas, greenhouse gasses, and another position for another Seattlite on the clogged highway to Edmonds.
    While I do not think there’s enough shoreline for people, there are some grassy areas that people use for tai qi, frisbee, ball playing with mom or pops less regularly. I think reasonable dog people like ES should get together and discuss if there’s a place that’s not really used by any people or wildlife in our parks for 4 seasons. I’m skeptical, but hopeful.
    As far as people who do not understand why dogs need to be on leash in the woods, they are feared my a number of people and animals. JP, where are there no dogs? There are no places I know without dogs, and there are wild dogs that roam in some parts of our nation and bite (or worse) young and old. One of my friends from Nebraska is one of the victims. I like dogs, but if dog is loose and nips or barks at me or jumps up on me uninvited, it’s clear to me the owner is irresponsible.

  • McBride November 23, 2015 (5:11 pm)

    Hi New WSea, a couple points of clarification.
    First, yes, dogs. West Seattle has three things which make this a compelling topic, one I wanted featured at the District Council – a lot of dogs, the largest acreage of natural space in all of Seattle, and a population that really needs to reach an accord on the first two. This plan by Parks was/is under nearly Everyone’s radar, and trust me, that never, ever works out well. So yeah, people talking about it, awesome. (Note to people talking about it, follow the posted links and join the conversation. This is a big deal being proposed.)
    Second, the FIFI walk. More City employees than public is what we call a Huge Win. It happens (locally) maybe once or twice a year in various formats, and normally involves pulling teeth. Why so important? Because eyes on a situation is how you get a project funded. The District Council steers over $200k/year in Dept of Neighborhoods sourced funds alone into street, parks, and community projects. Events like the FIFI walk are where we try to secure support for the Really big improvements. You may not have noticed, but a lot of work is happening because of things like the FIFI walk, and the community members who made it happen. Side note, the City staff are salary, it didn’t cost you anything other than gratitude that some civil servants came to Delridge and made some commitments.
    That’s not to say you should be satisfied with the pace of improvement to your community. We’re not. But changing that takes commitment and action. We’d love to have you. District and Neighborhood council meetings are regular, free, and open to the public. Go get some good done.

  • Wsseares November 23, 2015 (11:40 pm)

    the bottom line is that there are not enough off-leash areas for dogs in West Seattle. For as fast as this city is growing, dogs do need an enclosed spot where they can run off some energy in a safe area. The closest dog park for me is Westcrest, and coming from Admiral, it can take me 25 min one way to get there. I can’t go at night because it’s not safe. I am unable to run, so I at least want to let my dogs offleash so they can do that. I am sure we can spare a few little off leash areas in more central locations for dogs and keep some land from all the developers and apartments/condos being built.

Sorry, comment time is over.