Dog owners now have one fewer place to take their pets in the Ashland parks system, which already bans canine companions in most parks.
On Monday, the Ashland Parks Commission voted 4-1 to close a trail to dogs in North Mountain Park that previously had been open to pets on a leash.
The hilltop trail on the south edge of the park provides a shortcut between North Mountain Avenue and Village Square Drive.
Painted dog prints on the trail that marked it as dog-friendly will be painted over, and signs that say the trail is open to dogs will be changed.
North Mountain Park Nature Center Stewardship Coordinator Linda Chesney said the trail and the signs caused confusion for dog owners. Some seemed to think that all of North Mountain Park, which is home to wildlife areas, ball fields and a playground, was open to dogs.
People who walked their dogs on leashes throughout the park didn't pose a big problem, but some owners would slip their leashes off their pets once they got out of sight of Nature Center staff, Chesney said.
Those dogs caused trouble in the park's wildlife habitat areas, she said.
"We have all kinds of ground-nesting species," Chesney said. "We have ducks and other wildlife. A huge amount of effort has gone to restore the park and manage it for wildlife habitat.
"I've seen people with their retrievers in the ponds going after ducks."
When confronted by parks staff, some dog owners became belligerent and rude, she said.
Chesney said she is a dog lover, but the clearest solution was to ban dogs throughout the park, including on the south trail.
She said the fact that people have tried to use North Mountain Park to recreate with their dogs shows there may be a need for more dog-friendly areas in the parks system. But she said that her personal opinion is that North Mountain Park would never be appropriate for dogs because of its wildlife habitat.
Parks Commissioner Rich Rosenthal was the lone commissioner to vote against closing the trail to dogs.
He said banning dogs on the trail probably will not be effective in stopping people from taking their dogs to the park.
The Ashland parks system has a long tradition of closing most parks to dogs.
Rosenthal said dogs may be appropriate in some neighborhood parks, such as the Railroad Park and Glenwood Park. He said he plans to bring up the issue at a future commission meeting, with the hope of loosening up some restrictions.
Commissioner Melody Noraas, who voted to close the trail to dogs, also said the commission needs to take up the issue of dogs in parks in the future.
"We're going to have to deal with dog issues on a more global level at some point," she said.
The Ashland parks system does have the dog park, where canines are allowed to play without their leashes. The two-acre, fenced park is located off West Nevada Street.
The Bear Creek Greenway, a paved path that runs from Ashland to Central Point, runs near the dog park and is open to dogs.
Dogs are allowed in the Ashland park system's Siskiyou Mountain Park and the Oredson-Todd Woods. The areas are wooded and have plentiful trails.
Siskiyou Mountain Park alone covers 270 acres.
People also can walk their dogs in Ashland's hills along a Talent Irrigation District canal.
Dogs aren't allowed on Lithia Park's grounds, but pet owners can walk their animals up the paved road through the park until they reach a dirt road that offers hiking with dogs in the Ashland Watershed.
Undeveloped park and city land that is open to dogs includes Hald-Strawberry Park, the Cottle Street property, the Granite Street property, the Burson property, the Lawrence property, and a Liberty Street access area.
To view a map of dog-friendly areas, visit www.ashland.or.us/Files/DogFriendly.pdf.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.