Earlier this month I wrote a post saying that I broke Seattle’s leash law because the city doesn’t have enough large off leash dog parks for a city with approximately 150,000 dogs.
Although its population has increased almost 18% since 2000, Seattle increased its total off leash areas (OLAs) acreage by only 2.3 acres, or about 10%. Half of this land is found in a single inaccessible, underutilized OLA under I-5 (I-5 Colonnade). The other OLAs are extremely tiny like Kinnear Park (.1 acre) and Magnolia Manor (.4 acre).
The reason I’m a leash law outlaw is Haley, our ball-obsessed Labrador Retriever. She needs lots of vigorous exercise several days a week to stay healthy and burn off her seemingly endless supply of energy. But the only two OLAs near our house are Seattle’s tiniest OLAs, Kinnear Park and Magnolia Manor.
So instead of driving for 45-60 minutes (round trip) to one of the few OLAs that are large enough to exercise Haley, I usually take her to a local ball field that sits virtually unused for eight months out of the year and play there.
After I wrote about breaking Seattle’s leash law some people sent me emails saying I was, among other things, irresponsible, self-centered, and unfair for disregarding it.
Their emails inspired me to reform my leash law breaking ways, so last week I took Haley to Magnolia Manor OLA to play fetch. Kinnear Park OLA would have been closer, but at only .1 acre, it’s way too small for large, active dogs.
When we arrived at Magnolia Manor last Monday I was stunned to see that Seattle Parks and
Recreation reduced the size of the OLA by about 25% for some other project. Already tiny to begin with, Magnolia Manor is now only about a third of an acre.
Most of the ground cover there is either gravel or wood chips. We played on the wood chips since Haley had trouble maneuvering on the gravel.
The area where we played was only about 30 yards long, which was about half the size of the area on the ball field where we usually go. That meant Haley had do much more starting and stopping than usual.
After playing for a half hour we left. We went back again on Tuesday and went through the same routine.
On our afternoon walk that day, Haley walked much more slowly than normal. She usually trots at quick pace but last Tuesday she just walked slowly and didn’t appear to enjoy the walk, so I cut it short.
That night I noticed that she kept licking her paws. When checked them they all either had hotspots or areas that had been rubbed raw.
The only thing we did differently that week was play fetch at Magnolia Manor OLA, so the only thing that could have irritated her paws was the increased amount of starting and stopping she did at there.
This never happens to her when we play fetch at the ball field where she has more room to run and the grass is much softer than wood chips.
Haley’s feet were fine after a couple of fetchless days, but we won’t go back to Magnolia Manor. It’s fine for smaller dogs or dogs that don’t need much exercise, but like many of Seattle’s OLAs, it is simply too small for large dogs that need space to run.
For about a year, the Seattle Board of Parks Commissioners have been working on a People, Dogs and Parks Master Plan to guide Seattle Parks’ work on OLAs for the next few years. But not only does the draft of plan propose no new OLAs, the only parcels mentioned in it for possible OLAs are only .1 – .83 acres.
The Board will finish the Master Plan and present it to the Seattle City Council in the next few months. I hope it doesn’t include any recommendations for any new OLAs that are too small for larger dogs. Not only are they underutilized, but planning and building them wastes time and money that could be used to plan larger OLAs that dog owners desperately need.