Agendas and Minutes

Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission (View All)

Parks Commission Study Session Minutes

Monday, September 20, 2010

City of Ashland




September 20, 2010



Present:         Commissioners Eggers, Gardiner, Lewis, Rosenthal; City Council Liaison Jackson; Director Robertson; Superintendents Dials and Gies

Absent:       Commissioner Noraas


Gardiner called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. at Pioneer Hall, 73 Winburn Way.


Eggers welcomed all in attendance, including members of the public, Parks commissioners, and Parks staff, and reviewed the meeting outline. She said the meeting would allow participants to share information about dogs with other community members and the Parks Commission.

Eggers said ground rules for the meeting included:

1.       Respectful communication

2.       Raise hand when you want to speak

3.       Stay on track

4.       Turn off cell phones

5.       Latecomers review agenda and ground rules before speaking

Robertson reviewed current Parks Commission and City of Ashland policies and ordinances on dogs in parks and other public lands. He referenced municipal code 10.68.200 Animals, first issued in 1847 (later corrected as 1916), and said dogs were not allowed in most city parks due to issues associated with sanitation, conflicts between people and dogs, dogs and dogs, and people not wishing to be around dogs. He said the current maximum fine for dogs in parks was $142 and City employees authorized to issue citations included Park Patrol and sworn police officers. He said both types of enforcement personnel preferred to gain compliance with dog owners rather than issue citations.

Robertson said the Parks Commission reviewed the topic of dogs in parks several years earlier and decided to provide more “dog friendly” areas for citizens (beyond the Dog Park) that included the Oredson-Todd Woods, Siskiyou Mountain Park, the Cottle Property, and Hald-Strawberry. He displayed an Ashland map showing dog friendly areas along with a “mutt mitt.” He said the Parks Department purchased approximately 35,000 mutt mitts per year and installed them in “dog friendly” areas in Ashland. He talked about ADA guidelines for service animals (animals trained to perform tasks for persons with disabilities) and said such animals were allowed to enter any area or building that a disabled person entered as long as the animals were under the owners’ control and remained well behaved.

Robertson said the format for the evening’s dog forum was the same format used when the commission discussed the Daniel Meyer Pool and pesticides. He said the format allowed citizens to hear introductions, sit around tables to discuss issues among themselves and write down their concerns and potential solutions, and then share their thoughts with other meeting participants. He asked attendees to gather around tables with people they did not necessarily know.

Feedback from Meeting Participants

Group 1:

§         Use neighborhood volunteers to patrol school grounds.

§         Impose stiffer fines for non-compliance.

§         Mark the areas where dogs are allowed.

§         Require leash / voice command control of dogs by dog owners.

§         Current dog friendly parks not convenient for seniors and persons with disabilities; provide more parks that are better distributed around town and more accessible for all citizens.

§         Are ADA laws being abused? Are people saying their animals are service animals just to get them into public areas? Is it legal to inquire why a service animal is being utilized or about the disability?

§         Dogs are not the problem, dog owners are the problem. Educate the public about controlling and cleaning up after their dogs.

Group 2:

§         Make Hunter Park a dog friendly park; provide an area at Hunter Park where dogs can be on leash during sporting events.

§         Provide more signage stating the fines for non-compliance with dog rules; provide dog waste disposal bags; raise cost of dog licenses to cover dog cleanup costs.

§         Provide a trial period where a park can be designated as dog friendly and dogs can be on leash; enlist volunteers to clean up dog permitted areas.

§         Provide a “second” or “southern / eastern end of town” dog park.

Group 3:

§         The policy of enforcement on school grounds is not consistent.

§         Allow more people to issue citations for non-compliance (rather than just Park Patrol and sworn police officers).

§         Address the sanitation issue of dog droppings in public areas.

§         Post fines on park signage for dog violations.

§         Provide better enforcement of dog rules.

§         Expand areas where dogs may go off leash.

Group 4:

§         Responsible dog owners suffer because of irresponsible dog owners; punish only the rule breakers.

§         Organize “dog watch volunteers” who are responsible for “owning” their local park and ensuring compliance with dog rules.

Group 5:

§         Current laws are suitable; they’re “the best we can do.”

§         Current “dog friendly areas” are not convenient for elderly or disabled citizens and visitors.

§         Set aside trails for runners on which dogs are not permitted.

§         The Dog Park is great for a subset of dogs but many don’t feel comfortable taking dogs there.

§         Make portions of Lithia Park available for dogs during certain hours of the day.

§         Dogs owned by homeless people are generally not socialized or healthy.

§         Loose dogs have harmed both wildlife and children in City parks and other public areas.

§         Dog owners normally don’t get a chance to enjoy Lithia Park since dogs are not allowed.

§         Visitors to Ashland are frequently disappointed to learn that dogs are not welcome in Lithia Park. They also can’t leave their dogs in their cars or hotel rooms so they’re left with few options.

§         Swans in Lithia Park were killed by off-leash dogs.

Group 6:

§         Many of the same or similar concerns and solutions as expressed by other groups.

§         Dogs bring joy to individuals within the community, including mental health benefits.

§         Many proprietors allow dogs in their establishments; business will be lost if patrons can’t bring dogs.

§         Send non-compliant dog owners to school to learn how to follow rules.

§         Require dog walkers to display visible doggie waste disposal bags on their dogs’ leashes.

Wrap-up and Feedback

Robertson said staff would compile the feedback and report back to the commission, with the commission deciding how to proceed. He said Parks staff researched other similar communities within Oregon and California and learned that many communities allowed dogs on leashes in their city parks.

Forum participants asked final questions for which staff provided answers:

§         Are dogs allowed in City-managed cemeteries? No.

§         Are dogs allowed on the Bear Creek Greenway? Yes, on a six-foot leash.

§         Will Parks formulate a committee made up of volunteers and commissioners to study this topic further? If so directed by the Parks Commission.

§         Who should be called when dog owners open their doors and allow dogs to run free? Ashland Police Department.

§         Would staff be willing to research other cities’ dog ordinances? If so directed by the Parks Commission.

§         Why don’t Parks and other regular City employees (not members of the Ashland Police Department) enforce dog rules? Some enforce while others are uncomfortable or feel it’s not their place. Only police and Park Patrol are authorized to issue citations.

Robertson thanked everyone for participating in the dog forum.

ADJOURNMENT – By consensus, Gardiner adjourned the meeting at 8:40 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Susan Dyssegard, Ashland Parks and Recreation

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