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Time to let parks go to the dogs?

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Dreams of dog owners and their pets could be fulfilled over the next several months with some effort on the part of interested citizens. During the city council goal setting process for fiscal year 2006-07, councilors directed park and recreation staff to explore developing an off-leash area in the community.

Dog parks or off-leash areas can provide a number of positive opportunities for dogs and their owners.

Smaller lot sizes and multi-family dwellings often do not provide enough room for pet owners to exercise their animals.

A future off-leash area will provide a legal option for dog owners who currently run their pets off-leash in a number of places such as parks, school playgrounds, and other areas in violation of both city and county leash laws.

Having a place for dog owners to run their pooches should provide safer park and school environments as pet owners will be expected to keep their pet on a leash in these areas.

This project is scheduled for completion by June 2007 but is dependent on input and help from interested pet owners.

At this time, some site selection work has been initiated by staff but has not been finalized. The Recreation Commission would like to hear from interested citizens regarding this project before further work is completed.

Design of the area has not begun and only preliminary ideas have surfaced. The site may include: large- and small-dog areas, water facilities, benches, self-closing gates, parking, trash containers and stations for collecting dog waste.

How the area will be maintained is still under discussion. Many communities in Oregon have, or are in the process of developing, dog parks or off-leash areas.

A quick Internet search found no less than 30 different areas in various stages of development.

Communities have established a variety of ways to fund and maintain these areas.

The City of Forest Grove Parks and the Parks and Recreation Department has budgeted money to fence and provide water to a site determined by the recreation commission and approved by the city council.

This revenue will come from system development charges which are fees charged to developers on new homes built in Forest Grove.

Many communities across the country, including several in Oregon, have formed non-profit organizations to advocate for dog parks; and several, like many of the sports organizations in our community, help with maintaining the facility and provide financial support.

The Forest Grove City Council and the Recreation Commission hope citizens who are interested in an off-leash area will help with the maintenance of the area. For special programs and everyone's favorite job - picking up after the dogs - citizens will be asked to help.

The Recreation Commission is asking for citizens to help with this project. For additional information and volunteering opportunities, contact me at 503-992-3237.

Tom Gamble is Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Forest Grove.