Dog owners barking

The South Kitsap Community Park gained about $2 million when Kitsap County assumed ownership from the now-defunct South Kitsap Parks and Recreation District.

But it also gained all the county’s rules, which affected the daily lives of dog owners living in the area.

Laurel Kinney brings her 8-year-old golden retriever, Buddy, to the park almost every day of the week, and was disappointed to see a large sign explaining the county’s rules requiring dogs to be on leashes in the park. The change came as the county took over the park.

“In accordance with our park code, all of our county parks incorporate leash requirements,” Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver said.

In fact, the rule has been in effect since the county took over the property, as noted in the list of park rules. But since most park-goers ignored the sign, in the past month the county posted a larger sign with red lettering pointing dog owners to other area parks with off-leash areas.

“We have two of the largest off-leach facilities in the county at Bandex and Howe Farm,” Faver said.

But for Kinney and Buddy, going off site is not an option, with Kinney’s eyesight deteriorating, and other residents are sad to lose an intensely local offering, where dozens of dogs once ran around in the mornings when few others used the park.

Nearby residents explained that they weren’t just losing access to off-leash areas — many can and do drive to the other parks — but losing a close-by area where they could socialize with other dog owners along forested trails.

“It’s so unhealthy,” said South Kitsap resident Jo Christensen. She and her husband Jerry moved to the area partly so they could take their dog to the adjacent park. She’s concerned that leashed dogs don’t develop good social skills.

“If they’re on the leash,” she said, “they get very aggressive because they’re trapped.”

Kinney said she’s observed Buddy’s behavior change since she started observing the rule.

“He doesn’t get to do many things like meet other dogs and sniff things,” she said. “It seems like work when he walks around, he just goes forward.”

She’s afraid Buddy will lose the kind of interaction he had Friday morning with Nina Regalia’s dogs Zero and Nada. The three dogs roamed around their owners, sniffed each other and interacted with their owners.

The sign has spurred action among many of the dog owners, in fact most found at the park on Wednesday morning commented that they wanted to see some sort of action taken to restore the park as an off-leash area.

Kinney and others have contacted South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel and the parks department.

Faver noted that if dog-owners want to create an off-leash area at the park, now is the time, as the county and community members work to invest money into its infrastructure.

He encouraged dog-owners to contact Arvilla Ohlde through the parks department at (360) 337-5365.

In the meantime, Kinney plans to attend the next meeting of the County Commissioners to voice her concern.

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