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No leash, no worries

After months of waiting, dogs and their owners can enjoy a romp without a leash at Howe Farm — and without breaking the rules.

“It’s wonderful,” said South Kitsap resident Jill Williams, who was visiting the park Thursday morning with Ollie, her golden retriever. “We kept driving by, waiting for it to be finished.”

Williams said it was important to have a place were dogs could run around off-leash, particularly when interacting with other dogs.

“It’s really good for socializing,” she said, adding that it was also nice to have the lack of leashes be sanctioned.

“You don’t feel like you’re being sneaky,” Williams said, explaining that she also walks her dog in parks where leashes are required though owners don’t always use them, such as Banner Forest and South Kitsap Community Park.

Of course, dogs and their owners are expected to follow some rules when inside the new area, including, respectively, behaving themselves and picking up poop.

Users are asked to observe the park’s “Eleven Commandments,” which includes more obvious rules such as supervising your dogs at all times, picking up their poop, and making sure they are leashed once they leave the fenced-in section.

The less obvious ones include describing what exactly “bothersome” dog behavior is, and asking owners to pick up one extra poop that isn’t their dog’s, “because we will all ‘miss’ occasionally. Others will return the favor for you.”

Danny Horovitz, a member of the Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said the commandments are basically the same rules that are posted at Bandix Dog Park in Olalla, and were modeled after the guidelines used at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

Williams, who was joined by five other owners at the park Thursday, said in her experience most people are considerate of others.

“Most of the people who use these parks have a pretty good understanding of what it’s all about,” she said. “But once in a while you’ll see some forgotten poop.”

Fellow SK resident Rob Leone was enjoying the park with his wife, Lynda, and their golden retriever Sadie.

“We live just across the street,” said Leone. “We’ve been waiting for it to open up. It’s going to be great to have this here, and give (Sadie) a place to run without worrying (about breaking the rules).”

The official grand opening for the new off-leash area, parking lot and restrooms is scheduled for Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

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