Off-leash park at Crestwoods raises concerns

Twice a day, Candida Crane walks her energetic terrier, Sadie and young Labrador Oliver through her Norkirk neighborhood on a leash.

Norkirk resident Candida Crane walks her dogs

Norkirk resident Candida Crane walks her dogs

Twice a day, Candida Crane walks her energetic terrier, Sadie and young Labrador Oliver through her Norkirk neighborhood on a leash.

But dogs need to be dogs, she says.

So on the weekends, she drives her pooches to a dog park in Medina. There, they “get a lot better exercise and have the opportunity to cut loose and socialize with other dogs,” Crane said. “They can chase balls and Frisbees and squirrels. They can’t do that on a leash.”

Crane is amongst the many local dog owners who support the idea of creating a pilot off-leash dog park at Crestwoods Park.

A citizen’s initiative to establish the pilot that would be partly funded by KDOG, the Kirkland Dog Off-leash Group, may get a boost by the Kirkland Park Board. The Board could recommend the City Council create an ad hoc citizens group to review the proposal and develop the next steps.

After reviewing several possible locations for an off-leash park, an undeveloped wooded area east of Crestwood Park’s basketball court is the top candidate.

“Crestwoods is already kind of an unofficial off-leash dog park in the back area,” said Crane, who was part of a citizen’s group who established a successful pilot in Seattle years ago. “With a dog park, the rules are well established for dog owners and people follow those rules more so than if it is an unofficial area.”

But other area residents, like Mark Hickling, disagree.

A Norkirk resident who lives at the north end of Sixth Street next to Crestwoods Park, Hickling said he would be one of the neighbors most affected by an off-leash park at that location.

“It’s a one-lane road and regularly, when there are soccer games and little league games, I get blocked out of my house,” he said at a recent Norkirk neighborhood meeting at Heritage Hall. “We had a medical emergency once and we couldn’t get out without calling the police.”

Hickling said establishing a dog park in the area would be an improvement, as off-leash dogs have often trampled and damaged his garden.

“But I don’t see Crestwoods as a desirable location,” he said, adding he is “concerned about the traffic and parking issues because people just don’t behave responsibly. They don’t with their kids, I can’t imagine they’ll be any better with their dogs.”

Others were concerned that Crestwoods Park could become a regional attraction like Marymoor Park in Redmond where people go from the greater Seattle area to walk their dogs.

However, Chuck Bartlett, a Park Board chair who addressed resident’s concerns during the meeting along with three other board members, said the board doesn’t want Crestwoods to become a regional park.

“Dog walkers, we would hope, would not visit this park,” Bartlett said. “How we would have rules and enforce them is another thing, but we’d like to think that this would be for Kirkland residents to bring one or two dogs and that there wouldn’t be a dog walker unloading a van with 10 dogs.”

Several neighbors said that an off-leash area at Crestwoods could get messy, adding they don’t want to be responsible for picking up dog waste left in their yards.

But Tom Sherrard, who takes his Labrador to Marymoor regularly, says people who take their dogs to off-leash areas “are pretty darn conscientious people. They fill their pockets with little plastic bags and they pick everything up and you’d be surprised at how little poop there is.”

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