Recently the Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) released its biennial report showing that Seattle has significantly fewer acres of its open space dedicated to off-leash areas (OLAs) than several comparable U.S. cities.
COLA released its report in conjunction with the work of the Mayor and City Council to develop a Dog Off-Leash Master Plan as part of the 2015 budget. COLA is working with Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Seattle Animal Shelter to put the plan together.
COLA volunteers spent about a year searching and analyzing data of other high density cities in the U.S. and Canada. They also went on investigative trips to Portland and Vancouver BC to assess their programs.
Their research indicated “Seattle’s off‐leash program lags far behind nationwide dog off‐leash efforts, which are undergoing a boom unlike any since children’s playgrounds 100 years ago.”
This chart summarizes how Seattle’s OLAs compares to those other cities.
The chart shows that Seattle has significantly fewer acres of OLAs (25) than these similarly-sized cities: San Francisco (125), Portland (66.73), Vancouver, BC (168), and Minneapolis (21.61).
In addition, a report by the Trust for Public Land found Seattle didn’t make the top 10 cities with regard to the number of dog parks per 100,000 residents.
Here are some of the other key findings of the COLA study:
- The #1 reason non-OLA users have for not using dog parks is that they are not conveniently located.
- Although Seattle and San Francisco have approximately the same percentage of households with dogs (25.2% vs. 25.4%), SF has about 5 times the number of OLA acreage and twice the number of dog parks.
- Seattle has 14 off-leash dog parks, but residents only use four of them regularly – Magnuson, Westcrest, Golden Gardens, and Woodland.
- Only four OLAs have 78% of Seattle’s total OLA acreage – Magnuson, Westcrest, Genesee, and Dr. Jose Rival. Magnuson alone contains over a third of the city’s total OLA acreage.
- Only three OLAs (Plymouth Pillars, Regrade, Golden Gardens) have some lighting for late afternoon and evening use in the winter.
- Only one OLA (Magnuson) has water access.
- Only four OLAs have small dog areas (Golden Gardens, Magnuson, Westcrest, and Magnolia Manor).
- Since 2001 Seattle has opened 6 new OLAs, but they only totaled 2.3 acres.
All these facts and figures clearly show that Seattle needs more park acreage dedicated to OLAs. But adding a few more minuscule dog parks will not solve the problem because, as the COLA report shows, people don’t use them.
I can personally attest to this. The closest OLA to me is Kinnear. I don’t take my dogs there because it is too tiny – only .1 acre – for them to get adequate exercise. Furthermore, it has no parking. To get there I have to park either on a busy street (Olympic Way W) and go down over 150 stairs, which we have to climb when we’re done, or I have to park on even busier street (Elliot Ave.) and climb a hill.
This is a huge reason why lots of dog owners, including me, take their dogs to parks or play fields with no OLAs to let their dogs off leash so they can get exercise and socialize with other dogs. I’d much rather take my dogs to an OLA, but the ones closest to me are too small to use, and braving Seattle traffic to get to the larger ones would be insane. I’d spend more time in traffic than I would at the dog park.
This fall, the three groups putting together the Dog Off-Leash Master Plan convened a series of focus groups to get public feedback about the future of Seattle dog parks, and in early December, they will release a draft plan and solicit public comments on it.
If you want to voice your opinion about what should be included in the plan, please participate in the process. I’ll let you know when the draft plan is available.