Arts and Entertainment

Where dogs run free in Kitsap

Bremerton's Andi Knox feeds a canine at Port Orchard's Howe Farm off-leash park.
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo

What’s Up writer Jennifer Morris and her dog paid a visit to Kitsap’s off-leash parks to find what’s available for the county’s four-legged residents.

On assignment to sort out where dogs can run free in this county, I brought with me Eloise — Ellie, rather — my playful 14-month-old hound dog, who I figured would be perfect for sniffing things out.

Moving north to south (mostly) we first headed up to Poulsbo’s Frank Raab Park, 18349 Caldart Avenue, a place with a smashing view of the Olympics. Near a community garden and picnic shelter is this off-leash area, with two different fenced sections for pups to play in. Like all the other parks we visited, there are water bowls for the dogs and a bench for their bipedal counterparts. Eagledale Park, 5055 Rose Avenue on Bainbridge, is a one-acre grassier version of Poulsbo’s off-leash area with a nearby labyrinth and tennis court (and there we even found tennis balls to play with.)

In Bremerton is Bark Park, a flat little canine oasis near the playfields of Pendergast Regional Park on Union Avenue. There the land is mostly dirt, rock and cropped grass, and a trail circumvents the area. Last week rain had settled in three large puddles on the ground, and the red-bellied birds dotting the surrounding lawn offered their birdsong.

It was in Bremerton that I met Erenn Kiriaell and Lucy, Lucy being a toy Italian greyhound/whippet mix and Kiriaell being a regular park visitor and volunteer at the site of Silverdale’s future off-leash area. Kiriaell said she had helped to clear brush from the area at Rotary Gateway Park along Silverdale Way.

That park is scheduled to open this summer, said Anita Bates, president of the Silverdale Dog Park Stewardship. The group has raised more than $20,000 of a projected $35,000 needed for infrastructure and improvements. Kiriaell is one of several volunteers helping to clear weeds and blackberries at the park on a given day. Alongside the Clear Creek Task Force, the stewardship will also eventually expand the parking lot and make way for roughly 14 more vehicles.

“I can’t believe how many people in Kitsap County actually have dogs,” said Bates, who lives in Silverdale and has two Siberian huskies. “It’s been such an eye-opener.”

The Silverdale Dog Park, like the county’s others, will be fenced and have pet waste disposal areas; sponsorships can be purchased at It is expected to open in June or July.

Down the highway Ellie and I made our way to Howe Farm, where we discovered what is easily the Promised Land of dog parks, replete with golden fields and a tiny, trickling creek. Surrounded by 80.3 acres, walking paths and an historic barn is an off-leash area with hiking trails and large open spaces — so sweeping one could easily forget they are bound by the confines of a fence. The place had several visitors, including Bremerton’s Andi Knox and her roommate’s 2-year-old beagle mix Lily.

“This is the Ritz-Carlton of dog parks,” said Knox, who’d been at the park nearly two hours already. She and Lily spend several hours each morning at any one of Kitsap’s dog parks. “By the time I get her home in the afternoon, she’s ready to eat, drink and take a nap.”

Situated on Long Lake Road, Howe Farm was renovated early in 2008 under the stewardship of a group called Kitsap Dog Parks. Also in their stewardship is the Bandix Dog Park, on Bandix Road off Burley-Olalla Road near Highway 16. Bandix, along with Howe Farm and the upcoming Silverdale Dog Park, are under county supervision, while the parks in Poulsbo, Bremerton and on Bainbridge Island are city-run.

Kitsap County Parks Superintendent Dori Leckner said the county doesn’t budget tax dollars for dog parks. Instead the money is raised through volunteer efforts. On all county park property dogs are required to be leashed, unless the area is designated otherwise, she added.

Tyrus Edwards, an officer with the county’s animal control, said owners face fines for allowing their pets to run off-leash in non-designated areas, depending on which jurisdiction they’re in throughout the county. The fine is highest at $300 on Bainbridge, and is lowest in Port Orchard at $87. The fine in Poulsbo for having a dog off-leash is $250, and in Bremerton and the rest of Kitsap County the penalty is $156, he said. Edwards added there are five workers in the county’s animal control department, and they enforce leash laws by both patrol and resident calls. Edwards also encourages owners to have their pets registered.

7 Rules of Behavior

Your dog may play nice with others, but here are a few tips on etiquette from for you to follow at the dog park:

- Don’t leave your canine unattended.

- Be sure to clean up after your dog.

- Make sure your pup is current on vaccinations and is licensed.

- Don’t bring your dog to the off-leash area if it is younger than 4 months or an unspayed female in season.

- If your dog starts playing too rough, leash him and leave.

- Don’t bring food for yourself, as it tempts the dogs.

- Follow all other posted rules.

For more dog park etiquette and other information, visit Vote for your favorite dog park at The What's Up Blog

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