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Dog Park Town Hall to address barking

To be held Oct. 25 from 1 to 2 p.m. in Fireside Room

By Ann Peterson

Managing editor

(Friday, Oct. 22): Excessive barking at the Dog Park needs an answer soon, especially for fed-up neighbors who live nearby. But before adding new rules, forming an oversight club or closing down the park, members of the Policy Committee want dog owners who use the park to help find a solution to the problem.

To accomplish that, a Dog Park Town Hall meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 25, from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Fireside Room. Jeff Matheson said the meeting is open to all residents, especially those who use the Dog Park or live nearby.

“We will review the current Dog Park rules, address neighbors’ concerns of excessive barking and loud voices and look for solutions for residents to self-police so the Dog Park can remain open for all to enjoy,” Matheson said.

Staff and Mutual 65 board members have received numerous complaints in the past month about excessive barking from the Dog Park. Rules state that owners can be asked to leave if they can’t control their dogs, but often it is difficult to sort out who the repeat offenders are, Matheson told the committee during its Oct. 11 meeting.

“Part of the main challenge with the Dog Park is oversight of the facility and enforcement of the rules,” Matheson said. “The dogs are going to bark on occasion, when someone enters the park or an animal runs by. The issue here is the ongoing excessive barking and the owners not reacting to get the dogs to stop barking.”

Ideas for addressing the issue included changing the rules to limit each owner to no more than two dogs in the park, helping residents to form a club that would have oversight of the Dog Park and perhaps even restricting park use to those club members.

Committee member Dwight Walker suggested trying a meeting with the owners and neighbors first.

“Finding the leader of the pack at the Dog Park to see if they can get something going seems like the best way to start,” Walker said. “Have we spoken to the dog owners in the park to ask what they think the solution is? I don’t think rules and a club are the real solution. I think it has to be people who go to the Dog Park.”

Three of the four committee members agreed that staff should host the meeting first. Director Kathleen Stumpfel voted against the idea.

“I think the owners will say that they will control the barking,” she said, “but then we will be right back here in a few months with the same problem.”

Matheson agreed that owners need motivation to solve the issue.

“There needs to be incentive to change the behavior for how the dogs are managed in the park,” Matheson said. “Right now, there is limited incentive.”

Walker suggested an option undertaken by a park near his former home. “There was incentive in the dog park we went to,” he said. “It would be closed if the dogs didn’t behave.”

The committee members agreed that consequences might eventually be necessary, but first, they hope the town hall meeting can generate ideas for bringing quiet back into the neighborhood.