Will Kirkland Be The Only Major Seattle-Eastside City Without an Off Leash Dog Area?

By Debra Sinick

I always kid my husband that if we ever break up our dog is a real "people" magnet.  He'd have no trouble meeting people, especially the female kind, if he has Henry, our dog, by his side.  Dogs do that for their people.  Dogs are magnets for other dog lovers.

People love to talk to other people who have pets.  Dogs help break down barriers between people, making it easy for people to meet.

Therein lies the beauty of an off leash area for dogs.  Dog parks or off leash areas are as much for dogs as they are for the people who own the dogs.  Off leash areas provide opportunities for critters with 2 or 4 legs to socialize.  There are off leash areas in Redmond, Tacoma, Shoreline, Bellingham, Gold Bar, Monroe, Medina, Bellevue, Mercer Island amongst many other places, but none in Kirkland.

There's  an active group, KDOG, Kirkland Dog Off Leash,  working hard to finish the earlier work done to put an off leash area in place in a Kirkland park.   The most recent dog park advocates joined together after Jean Guth sent out a Craig's List message about a Kirkland dog park.  Three people answered that first Craig's List ad.  Jean is the president of KDOG and now there's a list of 171 people who receive meet-up announcements. KDOG is a 5013C, a non-profit group.  A petition filled with over 600 names asking for a Kirkland dog park will be presented to the City Council.

Approximately, 37% of all home owners own at least one dog.  That's a lot of dogs and a lot of people, dogs, and people who would benefit from the interactions available in an off leash area.  This could be you or your friends and neighbors.

I don't have a dog, so why would this benefit me?

A Dog Park or an off leash area is an added amenity to a city and its citizens.  It makes the city that much more attractive and desirable to those 37% of dog owners.

In an earlier blog post I wrote:

"Dog parks are high on the list of amenities home owners appreciate having in their community...

When we Realtors look for homes for our buyers, we look at all the location offers.  Homes with great streets, good commutes, access to shopping, good schools, parks and dog parks add value to daily living and dollars to home prices.  From a real estate point of view, a city/neighborhood dog park can only add value to living in Kirkland for everyone.

Over the years, I've sold a number of homes in Redmond, near Microsoft.  Marymoor, and its dog park, are a huge draw to people.

Most people want to stay near home for errands and services.  People who go elsewhere for off leash areas spend their money elsewhere, not in Kirkland.  It's important to keep dollars in Kirkland and to support our local businesses.  It helps protect the vitality of our community for all.

Kirkland park maintenance has been drastically cut back due to budget cuts and each park needs a stewardship organization to help maintain the park.  KDOG could fill that need at a park which has a designated off leash area.

Will this cost me money?

No, KDOG has funds and can raise between $40-60,000 for stewardship of an off leash area.  Renton's off leash supporters, RUFF, has raised close to $50,000.

Can this group, KDOG, get it together?

Yes,  they planned Go Dog Go, a fund raiser and event for dogs and dog lovers, last summer with minimal help from the city.   The group also presented a $3000 check to the city to be used to purchase dog waste bags.

Seven vendors are already on board for this year's Go Dog Go event.

What does the Park Board have to say? (From the Park Board Memo)

To: Park Board

From: Jennifer Schroder, Kirkland City Parks Dept.

October 3, 2008

Dogs and Parks

CITY OF KIRKLAND Department of Parks & Community Services 505 Market Street, Suite A, Kirkland, WA 98033 425.587.3300 www.ci.kirkland.wa.us

MEMORANDUM

It is recommended that Park Board consider Kirkland Dog Off-leash Group’s (KDOG) request to seek City Council approval to conduct public hearings for an off-leash area in certain parks.

Background: In 2004 the Board recommended to the Council a process to follow when a citizen stewardship group voiced interest to support an off-leash area within a Kirkland park. On October 19, 2004 the Park Board recommended the following process:

Include off-leash dog areas as a program element for public consideration as part of all future park master planning projects.

When a stewardship group steps forward to champion an off-leash area, the following criteria should be followed:

Conduct a Public Hearing on park sites identified by the Park Board as sites to consider for an off leash area.

Involve Neighborhood Associations in the public process,  Funding for start up costs and ongoing maintenance should be offset by user fees, donations and volunteer stewardship.

On November 16, 2004 the Council passed Resoulution-4478 approving the Board’s recommendation regarding dogs and parks, as amended:

Include off-leash dog areas as a program element for public consideration as part of all future park master planning projects.

When a stewardship group steps forward to champion an off-leash area, the following criteria should be followed:

  • Conduct a Public Hearing.
  • Involve Neighborhood Associations in the public process
  • Funding for start-up costs and ongoing maintenance should be offset by user fees,
  • donations, and volunteer stewardship.

Jean Guth has a letter for the City Council which will be presented to the Council during it's Tuesday night, January 19th meeting:

Dear Kirkland City Council Members,

Happy New Year from KDOG (Kirkland Off-Leash Dog Group). KDOG has established itself as the stewardship group for off leash areas in Kirkland. We are coming before the new City Council asking that the new Council Members uphold the agreement that was issued in 2004 (Resolution-4478), regarding creating off-leash areas in Kirkland. Resolution-4478 states the following:

When a stewardship group steps forward to champion an off-leash area, the following criteria should be followed: 1.    Conduct a Public Hearing on park sites identified by the Park Board as sites to consider for an off-leash area. 2.    Involve Neighborhood Associations in the public process 3.    Funding for start up costs and ongoing maintenance should be offset by user fees, donations, and volunteer stewardship.

Six years have passed since this resolution. Off-leash areas are the norm in communities now, not a novelty. Kirkland is fortunate to have so many great examples of off-leash areas to use as a model, to pick from the best practices, and it’s time to offer Kirkland residents this type of recreation. KDOG has stepped forward to provide donations and volunteer stewardship at off-leash areas. The studies have been done (see the attached history of the off-leash discussions in Kirkland over the last 6 years), it’s time to move forward with off-leash areas on your agenda.

Hmm, it sure looks like Jean Guth's and KDOG's request is exactly what Jennifer Schroder sent to the Park Board in her memo dated October 3rd, 2008.

The group has met the stewardship criteria for an off leash area.  The issue needs to be out there for public consideration.

How can you support an off leash area for dogs in Kirkland?

Sign the online petition and/or go to next week's City Council meeting, Tuesday, January 19th in City Council Chambers, City Hall, 123 Fifth St. at 7 PM to show your support for KDOG.

What do you think?  Should there be an off leash area in Kirkland?