Leashed dogs will be allowed to roam more freely in eight Ashland parks, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission decided Monday.
The commission voted to allow leashed dogs in most areas of Garden Way, Clay Street, Garfield, Hunter, Railroad, Scenic, Sherwood and Triangle parks. They'll no longer be restricted to within 6 feet of paved or cement surfaces, but they'll still have to stay off ball fields and out of children's playgrounds.
Dogs continue to be banned from heavily used Lithia Park downtown, tiny Bluebird Park next to Ashland Creek downtown, Glenwood Park and North Mountain Park, home to sports fields, gardens and a wildlife-rich natural area.
Parks Commissioners Stefani Seffinger, Vanston Shaw and Mike Gardiner voted to allow dogs to have more access to the eight parks, while Commissioners Rick Landt and Jim Lewis voted against the easing of rules.
Seffinger said the rules about keeping dogs on or close to paved surfaces were confusing and difficult for residents and tourists to understand.
Shaw said the rules restricted the rights of residents to fully use their parks. He noted that many people consider their dogs to be like members of the family.
"It's like saying, 'I'm sorry. You can't take your kid to the park,' " Shaw said.
Shaw said that allowing dogs in parks shouldn't be a big deal.
But Landt said he hadn't heard a groundswell of support for the changes from residents.
Landt and Lewis said they would support adding another off-leash dog park in town, an option the Parks Commission is exploring for the future.
With the new easing of rules, Seffinger said she hopes dog owners will show respect for parks and other users.
"I'm really hoping that people are responsible in how they pick up after their dogs and keep their dogs leashed," she said.
Leashed dogs will continue to have full access to a host of undeveloped park properties and woodland parks properties, including the Oredson-Todd Woods and Siskiyou Mountain Park.
Owners also must continue to carry a means of cleaning up their dogs' waste or use waste bag dispensers that have been installed in recent years around town. People who do not clean up their dogs' waste on public property risk being cited.
Unleashed dogs found on park property — except for the off-leash Dog Park near Nevada Street — may be impounded, according to city laws.
For more information about dogs in parks, visit ashland.or.us/News.asp?NewsID=2815.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.