Officials mull Timberlake Park dog suggestions after meeting

September 15, 2009

By Staff

Robert Hook, a seven-year Montreux neighborhood resident, who takes his Newfoundland dog, Zeus, to Timberlake Park about once a month, raises his concern about the opinions of the audience being heard by the city at the Sept. 9 Timberlake Park pet rules open house meeting. By Greg Farrar

Robert Hook, a seven-year Montreux neighborhood resident, who takes his Newfoundland dog, Zeus, to Timberlake Park about once a month, raises his concern about the opinions of the audience being heard by the city at the Sept. 9 Timberlake Park pet rules open house meeting. By Greg Farrar

City officials are weighing options for future pet rules at Timberlake Park, where the city banned dogs in July.

First, parks staffers will glean suggestions from a stack of index cards filled out by residents last week. Officials hosted ban proponents and opponents at a Sept. 9 meeting; input from the meeting will be used as city officials consider changes to the ban or measures like citizen patrols to monitor the park.

About 70 people turned out for the Tibbetts Manor meeting. Officials organized the event after parks staffers and Mayor Ava Frisinger received a torrent of comments about the ban after it was implemented.

Officials banned dogs at the park after a series of reports of dogs knocking down children, grabbing food from picnic tables and running from park property into the lawns of adjacent homes.City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill described the meeting as “a positive roundtable discussion.”

The meeting included a few tense moments. Participants described encounters between dog owners and other park users. A woman said her child is now afraid of dogs after a dog ran at her child at the park. A man shouted at dog owners and then stormed from the room.

“Where is your personal responsibility?” he asked.

But participants calmed down and settled into roundtable discussions with city employees. Staffers answered questions and listened to suggestions. Meeting participants filled out index cards with questions, comments and suggestions; information from the cards will be sent to the city Park Board for review. Park Board members will then make a recommendation to the City Council.

Picturesque Timberlake Park spreads across 24 acres along the southern shore of Lake Sammamish. A narrow stretch of beach where owners allowed dogs to roam unleashed could have been part of the issue.

“What we heard from folks is that’s where the problem started,” McGill said.

Dogs are banned at most city parks; Bark Park in the Issaquah Highlands is the only off-leash dog park in city limits. Timberlake Park was annexed in 2006, and Issaquah officials agreed to hew to old King County rules that allowed pet owners to bring dogs to the park if the animals were leashed. McGill stressed that Timberlake Park was never an off-leash dog park.

City officials have suggested several times for pet owners to walk dogs on city streets and trails instead of violating the Timberlake Park dog ban.

“We want people to walk their dogs,” McGill said. “It’s a healthy, positive experience.”

The parks director said city and parks officials are open to suggestions to please proponents of the Timberlake Park ban and those opposed to the measure.

Some of the suggestions offered at the meeting included the creation of a group of citizens to monitor dogs at the park or hiring a contract employee to enforce the city ordinance barring dogs from most city parks. Other participants suggested a compromise in which the park could be designated for dog owners and their pets during certain hours and different users at other times.

Meeting participants also said the city should install clearer signs outlining park rules.

McGill said the city would like to have the rules for Timberlake Park solidified by next spring, when park use will increase as the weather warms.

What meeting participants said

After city officials presented a history of the park, a meeting participant said, “This was one of the most biased presentations I’ve ever heard.”

A woman said she jogs through the park and has been chased by off-leash dogs at least weekly.

A man said, “I was told by a dog owner, ‘This is a dog park. Go find a swimming park. F you.’”

A woman who said her child is afraid of dogs said, “Put yourself in the eyes of a 4-year-old child who sees a dog running right at you.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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