Owners howl at Timberlake Park dog ban
July 28, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
City officials have banned dogs from Timberlake Park, a slice of wooded land nestled against Lake Sammamish that is popular with pet owners.
Officials cited safety concerns related to dogs at the park, including reports of people being knocked down by unleashed canines, dogs fighting with each other and dogs bolting from the trail onto private property.
City spokeswoman Autumn Monahan said those safety concerns prompted the rule change for the 24-acre park.
“This is about making sure everyone feels comfortable at the park and safe,” she said.
Though a new “No Dogs Allowed” sign greets visitors at the park entrance, several park goers said they were unaware of the rule change July 27.
Issaquah Highlands resident Layla Loveless arrived at Timberlake Park for a morning walk with her chow, Millie, when she noticed the sign.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked to see the sign,” Loveless said.
Loveless said she and her dog prefer the shaded trail of Timberlake Park to the off-leash Bark Park in the highlands.
Bark Park is “a quagmire in winter and in the summer it’s a baked expanse of earth,” Loveless said.
Dogs are not allowed in most city parks due to safety and sanitation concerns.
The city acquired Timberlake Park — a j-shaped piece of land nestled against the southern shore of the lake at Northwest Sammamish Road and 182nd Avenue Southeast — in the 2006 annexation of South Cove.
When Timberlake Park was part of unincorporated King County, residents were allowed to walk dogs on leashes on park grounds — until problems arose.
“While many dog owners — and their pets — are respectful and cautious, we need to make sure this park feels safe for all of our users,” city Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said in a news release. “Timberlake Park was not created as an off-leash dog park. Instead, it was designed and built specifically for humans.”
McGill could not be reached for further comment before The Press’ deadline.
When officials announced the switch to the media in a news release July 24, they suggested pet owners instead walk dogs on city streets and trails, at Lake Sammamish State Park, at the Tradition Plateau Natural Resources Conservation Area and trails around Cougar, Tiger and Squak mountains. Bark Park is the only city off-leash dog park in Issaquah.
City Parks & Recreation Manager Brian Berntsen said city staffers are focused on educating dog owners to the switch and directing them to dog-friendly venues by handing out pamphlets to dog owners.
“This is all about educating the public as best as we can,” Berntsen said.
He said McGill received several calls from people in favor of and also opposed to the rule change.
Seattleite Jennifer Patterson discovered Timberlake Park a few days before the ban went into effect. She gathered friends both human and canine for a return trip to the park July 27.
“Let’s go back to the awesome park we found,” Patterson told them.
In the late morning heat, she and two friends ate snacks at a picnic table while dogs Bear and Magnet, still wet from a romp in the lake, rested in the shade.
Patterson said she was excited about her return to the park, but was surprised to learn about the ban.
Other park goers expressed similar sentiments.
During her trip to Timberlake Park, Loveless said she met a woman who “said she was walking her damn dog anyway.”
Loveless wondered aloud whether a compromise could be reached between dog owners and city officials to rescind or modify the ban.
“Surely there’s a middle ground,” she said.
Loveless said she understood the concerns that led to its enactment.
“No one wants to see children hurt,” she said.
Maple Valley resident Denice Muir brought her 14-month-old daughter Ava and chihuahua Dobbie to the park to cool off. From a shaded stretch of beach, Muir said dogs she has encountered at the park are trained and well-behaved. Muir said she heads to the park about five times per week.
“There has never been a problem,” she added.