Capitol Hill resident Maggie Orth says she likes off-leash areas, but isn't sure it's appropriate to have one in a historical park like Volunteer Park.
Capitol Hill resident Maggie Orth says she likes off-leash areas, but isn't sure it's appropriate to have one in a historical park like Volunteer Park.

There were supposed to be no comments from the public during the study session  the Board of Park Commissioners held to discuss the Draft People, Dogs and Parks Specific Plan Dec. 8.

But after Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Holly Miller and the board discussed issues surrounding a proposed $100 fee to receive animal behavior certification for professional dog walkers and the water quality of city parks for 55 minutes, Queen Anne resident Sharon LeVine raised her hand and changed the dynamics of the session.

“I don’t see how you can make an informed decision if you don’t hear about so many more relevant things that you haven’t touched tonight and that are relevant to this plan,” LeVine said. “We have been talking more about professionals and water quality but not really about the plan to get new dog off-leash areas in Seattle for the next 15-20 years.”

The board changed the agenda and let LeVine and the other eight residents attending the meeting expressed their concerns.

The plan itself is too vague, the Queen Anne woman said.

“It doesn’t make any promises as to how many off-leash areas are going to develop in a specific number of years. It really doesn’t even designate neighborhoods,” LeVine said after the meeting. “We’re not asking them to designate a specific site but we would like to talk about the neighborhoods that are crying out for a dog off-leash area.”

One of these neighborhoods is Capitol Hill.

Volunteer Park’s off-leash area was closed at the end of 2000 due to alleged tree damage related to canine urine.

LeVine asked whether revenue from the $100 fee would also be invested in the creation of new OLAs in the future.

David Bird, a board member of Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) and Magnolia resident, thinks the city could get extra money if it had a stricter dog license policy.

Only 43,645 of the 153,000 dogs living in Seattle are actually licensed, according to the Seattle Animal Shelter. As a two-year dog license costs $40, licensing the more than 100,000 unlicensed dogs would earn the city approximately $2.2 million annually.

The use of state taxes related to dog products was another of Bird’s main concerns.

Although human food is not taxable in Washington, it does collect a .96 percent tax on pet product sales. He said if one bought a $50 food bag per dog monthly in Seattle, that would generate approximately $8.8 million per year in tax revenue for the state.

“My bag of food is $69 per month, and that’s just one bag of food. That’s not treats or anything else that goes with it,” Bird said. “That’s my complaint. The city doesn’t take a piece of that pie to dedicate a yearly donation, even a $500,000 grant, to the dog development.”

The Board of Park Commissioners will hold its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Seattle Parks building, 100 Dexter Ave. N. 

What people walking their dogs at Volunteer Park think

“I’ve no objections to off-leash areas. My dog likes to go off leash. I like having off-leash areas in theory but whether or not this park is the right place for one is a different issue. It’s a historical park. It’s an Olmsted park and it’s Olmsted designed. If I really had to come one way or another about off-leash areas, I’d say it’s probably not appropriate to put an off-leash area in a historical park”.

Maggie Orth, Capitol Hill

“I think off-leash areas are great, especially in Seattle. I think I read that there are more dog owners than people with children. It definitely makes sense. It gives people somewhere to go with their pups. I do like to see ones that are clean though. Maintenance is definitely important.”

Ben Wyatt, Fremont/ formerly Capitol Hill

“I think the money for off-leash areas should come from the city. We pay fees for licenses. I happily pay school taxes although my son is now 30. There are things you do to support your neighborhood and your community, and that’s one of them.”

Shauna Woods, Capitol Hill