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Kirkland off-leash dog park gets boost from Park Board, moves to council for final approval

Jean Guth, president of the non-profit Kirkland Off-Leash Dog Group (KDOG), makes a presentation to the Park Board Wednesday on what Kirkland
Jean Guth, president of the non-profit Kirkland Off-Leash Dog Group (KDOG), makes a presentation to the Park Board Wednesday on what Kirkland's dog park would look like.
— image credit: Kevin Opsahl/Special to the Reporter

If dogs were allowed in Kirkland City Hall for last week’s Park Board meeting, they would have left wagging their tails.

The Kirkland off-leash dog park proposal that has stalled for years was given unanimous approval by the Kirkland Park Board on Oct. 13.

The Park Board will present the off-leash area to the Kirkland City Council for a decision. If approved, the off-leash area would most likely open some time in 2011.

“There’s a lot of love for dogs in Kirkland, so we’re ready for the challenge of providing money,” said Jean Guth, president of the non-profit Kirkland Off-Leash Dog Group (KDOG), who outlined specifics of the pooch-friendly park.

The city officially recognized KDOG as a non-profit group in 2008. It’s an understatement to say that the group championed the off-leash proposal, holding successful community events including Go Dog, Go!

In her presentation, Guth cited Montlake Terrace’s off-leash park as an example for what Kirkland’s might look like. There would be “doggie do’s and don’t’s” signs, waste bag dispensers, airlock gates and sand or wood chips for the trails.

“Sand is good because it helps to slow dogs down and gives them a really good aerobic workout, so you don’t get quite the speed that runs into trouble if the dogs were moving really fast,” Guth told the Park Board. “Wood chips would be good material to put for places to sit.”

The proposed site is a vacant property located near the intersection of 113th Avenue N.E. and N.E. 120th Street in the Totem Lake neighborhood, just south of the Heronfield Wetlands. In 2005, the city purchased the 7.5-acre property for park and open space purposes. Up to 2.5 acres are under consideration for a fenced, off-leash area, said Michael Cogle, planning manager.

Guth also said KDOG's proposal saves as many trees as possible.

Kirkland is the only major Seattle-Eastside city without an off-leash dog park, according to the KDOG Web site.

KDOG has proposed to pay for development, maintenance, and operation of the facility. Some figures mentioned by Guth: site construction would cost $25,000 and KDOG has raised $11,000; ongoing maintenance would cost $5,000 a year. KDOG is planning on banking three years of funding for that.

“This isn’t going to meet everybody’s needs,” Guth said of the proposal. “People are still going to want to go to Marymoor (in Redmond) because they want that large dog park experience.”

Park Board Chair Robert Kamuda was concerned that KDOG had not hired someone to design the actual park, but Guth said that is part of KDOG’s budget. Another Park Board member said he thought portable bathrooms need to be considered, too.

During public comments, Kirkland resident Terry Fletcher said that members of KDOG “would make this work” if the council approves the park. She said dog owners would “pick up a pile” even if their dog wasn’t responsible.

Karen Patterson, of Kirkland, spoke in favor of the park too, but raised concerns about the lack of parking around the area of the proposed park. She doesn’t want park-goers parking at office space around the off-leash area.

But Guth said that most people would come to the dog park over the weekend, when there were hardly any cars in that space.

The Park Board applauded the off-leash proposal, calling it a “win-win situation” – the city seems willing to go forward with an off-leash park, while a community group is willing to fund it.

That is “a wonderful thing” in a challenging economic environment, said Kamuda.

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