Lacey Parks Department observed that around 20% of dogs visiting five local parks were off leash, pointing to dog owners’ violation of established park rules.
In a Wednesday presentation at the Parks, Culture, and Recreation Board, Senior Planner Jenny Wilson showed the data Lacey Parks captured in the summer, recording 3,493 park users. About 3,073 park visitors have no dogs; 336 visitors had leashed dogs, and 84 had their pet off-leash.
Wilson mentioned that the parks department is facing challenges related to off-leash dog issues:
The department assigned part-time staffers to observe Rainier Park Vista Park, Woodland Creek Park, Wonderwood Park, Horizon Pointe Park, and Bush Park. To collect data, they had staff on a two-hour shift on various days and times between August 25 and September 20.
Wilson said the Parks Department received nine public complaints about off-leash dogs in the past three years. Three complaints came from Wonderwood Park, Woodland Creek Community Park, and Rainier Vista Park.
The staff observed that Wonderwood and Rainier Vista have the most areas with off-leash dogs and that "hotspots" like soccer fields and wooded areas are where owners regularly take their dogs off-leash.
Another complaint was regarding an off-leash dog attack on an on-leash dog at Woodland Creek Community Park. Additionally, an off-leash dog killed a squirrel at the same park.
The other two complaints involved dog waste – one about waste left on the beach at Long Lake Park and two more at Lakepointe Park.
The staff conducting observations in parks were also asked to record instances of "nuisance dogs" that were outside the voice control of their owners. Wilson explained that nuisance dogs included those seen running up to other people or dogs, even in a friendly manner.
While no aggressive dog behavior was observed during the study period, there were still several off-leash dogs approaching others in an uncontrolled manner.There were five in Wonderwood Park, one in William A. Bush Park, two in Woodland Creek Community Park, and one in Rainier Vista Park.
According to Wilson, staff observed that five owners did not clean up after their pets. When she mentioned the issue of dog waste in the park to Parks Supervisor Jamie Oakland, he did not seem to believe that dog wastes presents a significant problem in the parks.
However, the group tracked other rule violations occurring in the parks, and off-leash dogs remain the top concern. Other violations, followed by the number of times these violations were observed by staff during the survey period, are:
Wilson provided information on access to existing designated off-leash dog parks. She stated there are three dog parks in Olympia. Lacey has one located on Hogum Bay Road.
After talking to visitors, Wilson concluded that dog owners would like more options for off-leash canine recreation
In response to the parks' challenges, the department plans an education campaign with improved signage as a first step.
The two other potential solutions discussed were enforcement and park enhancements. Wilson noted that these would be considered more long-term, higher-cost solutions that would require staffing, budget requests, and additional research and collaboration with other city departments to determine feasibility.
Lacey’s park and trail regulations concerning pets are listed in the city’s website.
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