July 9, 2013 in City

Users of unofficial dog park stirred by rumored closure

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Donna Nelson, 67, of Spokane, smiles at her border collie-Australian shepherd mix, Caleb, as they stop near a garden hose left out for dogs by a neighbor near an unofficial dog park on the South Hill on Monday.
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Some users of a popular but unofficial off-leash dog park on Spokane’s South Hill were threatening to chain themselves to the fence there after a complaint sparked rumors that it might close.

The area, a buffer zone for the Southside Landfill located near East 63rd Avenue and South Altamont Street, has been used as a dog park for many years.

Recently, however, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service received a complaint that an off-leash dog jumped up on a person, Director Nancy Hill said. People who use the off-leash area said the responding officer warned them that they could be fined because the land isn’t an official dog park, fueling their concern. But Hill said the agency has had few complaints and has no plans to begin patrolling the area or to try to shut it down.

“We’re complaint-driven,” she said. “If we get a complaint, then we will respond to it.”

Dog owners also said they heard the city would remove amenities, including trash bins, fresh water for dogs, and dog waste-removal bags, following a similar complaint lodged with the city.

Those amenities are provided by a caretaker who lives between the landfill and the buffer zone used as a dog park, said Marlene Feist, a city utilities spokeswoman. The caretaker’s boss initially told the man to stop providing amenities after receiving the complaint, but Feist said those services will continue.

City officials will place signs in the area warning visitors to enter at their own risk, she said.

“All animals are required to be restrained and controlled,” the signs will read. “You are liable for any damage and injury inflicted by you or by your animal. All users are required to act respectfully and responsibly. Please clean up all waste and dispose off site.”

Although the city doesn’t plan to shut down the unofficial dog park, it also doesn’t plan to create an official park there. The land is subject to state and federal regulations because of its use as a landfill buffer, Feist said. It’s maintained by the city’s Solid Waste Management, not Spokane Parks and Recreation.

“We know traditionally people have used it as sort of their neighborhood dog park,” Feist said. “It’s not intended to be a dog park, but it’s fine that people are walking their dogs there.”

The Southgate Neighborhood Council is expected to discuss the issue at its meeting Wednesday.

“I’ve never had a problem up there,” dog owner Andrea Hanson said. “It’s just such a vital place for owners and their dogs to go and for everyone to get exercise. It’s just a great place. I would be sad if something happened to it.”

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