Dogs are now allowed in nine neighborhood parks, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department announced Wednesday.

Dogs are now allowed in nine neighborhood parks, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department announced Wednesday.

The change marks a loosening of rules that for years banned dogs from most developed parks in Ashland.

Parks now open to dogs are Bluebird, Clay Street, Garden Way, Garfield, Hunter, Railroad, Scenic, Sherwood and Triangle.

Dogs are not allowed to roam, however. They must remain on leashes of six feet long or shorter, and are allowed only on paved or cement surfaces or within 6 feet of those hard surfaces.

Owners must keep control of their dogs at all times. They must carry something to pick up their dogs' waste, or use newly installed waste bag stations at designated parks, officials said.

Owners who do not pick up after their pets risk being cited, officials said.

Lithia Park, Ashland's signature downtown park, and North Mountain Park, which is home to diverse wildlife, remain off-limits to dogs.

Leashed dogs are allowed to walk on the road surface of Winburn Way, a street that passes through Lithia Park.

The Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission voted to loosen the ban on dogs in developed parks on Aug. 22, but delayed putting the changes into effect until parks department workers could install new signs and waste bag dispensers.

"After many years of not allowing dogs in neighborhood parks, this represents a significant change to the rules established by the commission," Parks Commission Chairwoman JoAnne Eggers said. "It is a trial and we will determine in a year's time if it remains in place."

Parks Director Don Robertson said officials will look at whether the rule change has negative, positive or neutral effects on the parks and their patrons.

During months of discussions on the topic, residents voiced widely differing views on whether dogs should be allowed in developed parks.

Many favored the change, saying it would be good for dogs and the health of their owners, would allow all taxpayers to fully enjoy the parks, and would be good for Ashland's tourist economy.

Ashland had some of the most restrictive rules about dogs in parks of any West Coast city. Some travel websites warned tourists with dogs to stay away from Ashland.

Other residents have adamantly opposed lifting the ban, saying dog waste would sully parks and the presence of dogs will make some children and adults feel threatened.

Dogs already were allowed at Ashland's Dog Park off Nevada Street and on many undeveloped and wooded park properties.

To view a map of all park properties, visit www.ashland.or.us/Files/Parks_Properties.pdf.