Off-leash dog park to return

Site in Olympia could open by 2015 to replace closed pet area at Sunrise Park

ahobbs@theolympian.comMay 28, 2014 

City officials are working on a deal to bring an off-leash dog park back to Olympia.

An unnamed property owner is willing to lease a site in west Olympia, said David Hanna, associate director of parks. Once the deal is final, the new site will be announced at a public meeting slated for the end of June, Hanna said.

The news comes nearly a year after Olympia closed its only official off-leash dog park at Sunrise Park, 505 Bing St. NW. The former 1-acre fenced-in dog park opened in October 2010 but caused neighbors to complain about the traffic, noise and smell.

“We’re trying to find a site that isn’t nearly as close to surrounding properties,” said Hanna, adding that in a best-case scenario, the new park could open by mid-2015. The estimated cost has yet to be determined, but there will be areas for small and large dogs at the park, he said.

Sunrise Park had served as an unofficial dog park for years, said Marilyn Gilman, a neighbor who has noticed a positive difference since the off-leash area closed. The park had become an attraction, she said, and many people failed to clean up after their dogs. From her backyard, Gilman and family could smell the dog waste and hear a constant stream of chatter from dog owners, she said.

“We all thought it would be fine in the beginning,” she said Saturday while taking an afternoon walk in the park. “It’s quieter now that people all over the region aren’t flocking to it.”

Thurston County’s sole official off-leash dog park is located by the county dump at 2420 Hogum Bay Road NE in Hawks Prairie. However, the former off-leash area at Sunrise Park is apparently still on the map. Sequim resident Becky Penrose said she took her dog and three grandchildren to Sunrise Park after searching online for off-leash areas in Olympia. While her grandchildren played on a nearby jungle gym Saturday afternoon, the park’s open field provided room for Hobbit, a border collie-pitbull mix, to burn off energy.

“It’s a beautiful park to take kids and dogs,” Penrose said.

Some residents near Sunrise Park have another perspective on the off-leash area’s closure. Pat Anderson, who lives on Kenyon Street Northwest, said he has noticed “more seedy characters” hanging out at the park. When the off-leash area was open, he said, the presence of extra people may have acted as a deterrent.

“To a lot of us, it seemed the park made the area nicer,” Anderson told The Olympian. “It’s kind of a shame.”

Mandy Paradise, who lives near the park on Bush Avenue Northwest, expressed similar sentiments about activity at Sunrise and the need for an off-leash park.

“The dog park was hugely successful. It was overused. But that doesn’t mean you close it down,” she wrote in an email. “Meet demand and find other locations for people to bring their dogs to play.”

Some cities consider off-leash dog parks to be an integral part of their park systems. For example, the parks and recreation department in Portland reports that there are 33 off-leash dog areas in the city.

Off-leash dog parks provide healthy social outlets for both dogs and their humans, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Dog parks help a dog grow accustomed to meeting and socializing with unfamiliar dogs, according to the ASPCA, which notes that behavior problems in dogs are caused by a lack of physical and mental activity.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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