Friday, May 27, 2011

Not Going to the Dogs...Why Off-Leash Parks are Needed.

So many little time. The trail above that my pup is gazing upon may soon close to her. The local park board has decided to place a nature center in an old farmhouse on the property and wants all dogs off all the trails, relegating them to a small, fenced, grassy area instead. The fear is that these wild "beasts" may threaten or harm children participating in activities at the nature center.

For years and years, local dogs have enjoyed romping along many of the off-leash trails in this park, swimming in the creek, and meeting up with other pups like themselves and now suddenly all of that is going to be taken from them. Just because they anticipate that the park will soon be overflowing with children attending the nature center. A nature center located just a few feet from a parking lot which is located at a different entrance than the one the dog owners use.

Based on my experience of visiting nature centers while living in Illinois, nobody really uses the trails surrounding them. Typically mom and dad pull into the nature center parking lot, trudge the few feet up to the entrance of the center, walk in, look around at the stuffed animals tacked onto boards, look out the windows at the bird feeding station, trudge back to the car and call it a day spent in nature.

By comparison, dog owners come to use the trails. They love the out-of-doors and understand that their dogs have a huge need to spend time running free in the wild. No amount of walking a dog on a leash will accomplish what an off-leash experience can. I know my dog can only go a few days without running off-leash before starting to go stir crazy, needing to let off steam. I believe many of the problems people have with their dogs could be avoided by simply allowing them to have a good run every few days.

So why take the park away from the dogs entirely? Why take away the community created by dogs and their owners enjoying the park and each other? Isn't that part of the mission of create places outdoors to be in community with one another? I certainly understand the need for children to spend time outdoors too and welcome any opportunities to encourage that long forgotten pastime, it's just I don't think dogs should have to pay the price to make it happen.

How about allowing dogs in the early morning and evening when the nature center would be closed? A simple solution I think. Lets provide opportunities for all of us to get out and enjoy our local trails and not exclude some at the expense of another. Both children and dogs need time spent in the natural world, free and unfettered.


Scribe of Salmacis said...

I find it unfathomable how there actually seem to be people, who need to question whether a living being needs off-leash time. They probably spend time in parks for precisely that reason themselves - for some spare freedom. In my present city there are quite a lot of parks in which dogs have a relative freedom to run and explore, though under the supervision of their owners. A couple of former stray dogs from a neighbouring country, owned now by a friend of mine, even participate in our relaxed Sunday football, running happy and out of their minds after the ball.

Darcy said...

How great that your town has lots of opportunities for off-leash play. I smiled when I read of the dogs that join your Sunday football game- I can picture the dogs playing alongside trying to get the ball- how fun for them! Dogs really do blend in quite well with life when they are allowed to participate and not relegated to small back yards or tie-outs. Some communities are much more supportive of dogs being in their midst than others. Thankfully there are lots of dog owners pushing for what their dogs need in the communities that are not supportive.

Grampy said...

I agree dogs do need off leash time.