Dog owners have a right to Farm, too

Sound Off is a public forum. Articles are selected from letters to the editor or may be written specifically for this feature. Today, Southworth resident Megan Thompson weighs in on complaints that county officials gave too much weight to dog lovers in deciding how to use Howe Farm.

I have never taken my dogs to a county park and probably never will. However, I totally support the efforts to have a reasonably sized off-leash area at Howe Farm.

The farm was purchased with county money and should be managed in a manner that balances the needs/wants of the people with the other county lands available. My understanding is that the dog people did provide input to the Stewardship Committee early in the planning process and were told that the issue would be addressed.

It was addressed by a small bit of wording indicating that other uses would be considered. But when it came to considering those other issues, the dog people were shot down as “Johnny-come-latelies” trying to undermine the work of the Stewardship Committee, irresponsible pet owners for having a dog when they didn’t have enough land for it to run on, dogs would ruin the land for it’s intended use (i.e. haying, pea-patches), and it would ruin the grand plan for the land.

I think we need to back off a minute and look at these accusations. The dog owners were not “Johnny-come-latelies.” They were there in the beginning and naively trusted others to look out for their interests. And even if they had been, is it ever too late to attempt to improve/fix a plan?

To the people who think there shouldn’t be a dog park because owners shouldn’t have a dog unless they have enough land for pets to exercise on — how about if we extend that argument to a few more things. Why not shut down all the baseball diamonds because people should only play ball on their own property? Why not shut down the boat launches because you shouldn’t have a boat unless you have your own place to launch it? In fact, why don’t we just shut down all the parks because people should have enough of their own land to go for a walk on, and we don’t need playgrounds because obviously people shouldn’t have kids unless they have enough land for them to play on.

Oh, and what about those pea-patches? Forget about them, too. If you want your own garden, go buy some land.

In response to a recent article in this paper asking such things as, “Who loses here?” How has the third grade class been learning about Kitsap County’s farm history for the past 100 years? How can you say they won’t simply because dogs are allowed off-leash at Howe Farm?

I have a lot more faith in our wonderful teachers than you do. About the poor little 7-year-old Bremerton boy who’s never seen a farm, Howe Farm isn’t the only farm in Kitsap County, or haven’t you taken your blinders off long enough to see that?

In fact, Howe isn’t even a farm. It’s primarily unused land. The 28-year-old mother who has never tasted what a real tomato tastes like, you can grow a wonderful tomato in a pot on an apartment balcony (call the Master Gardeners if you don’t know how) and there are several wonderful farmer’s markets in the area and a large number of people who bring their “real” tomatoes there who would be eager to have her to try them.

The visiting grandmother who takes her grandchildren for a walk, steps in a pile of dog feces and goes back to New Jersey believing South Kitsap to be a foul and smelly place — I’m reasonably sure they have dog feces in New Jersey too. If she hasn’t stepped in any there, maybe she needs to get out more. And if she goes home thinking it’s a foul and smelly place, maybe she should take a trip to Tijuana and get a reality check.

And while she’s in Tijuana, look past the bad to see what a wonderful place it is.

Who gains here? Jan Angel gets my vote for having the foresight to work for all citizens of Kitsap County. It’s an outrage that the estimated 30 percent of Kitsap County residents who own dogs are basically being told to shut up and go home. It’s an outrage that the county parks department lists 37 pieces of property on its Web site totaling more than 4,200 acres, yet won’t grant about 20 acres of non-exclusionary use to 30 percent of the population.

Howe Farm can be managed to meet the goals of the Stewardship Committee and the needs of the dog-owning public. It’s an outrage to claim it can’t.

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