Jose Rizal Off-Leash Area
on Beacon Hill
Being Scaled Down from 5 Acres to 1.5!
The Parks Department is proposing to reduce the size of the Jose Rizal off-leash area from its original size – 5.134 acres – down to around 1.5. The subject of the Parks Department’s proposed reconfiguration has been put on the agenda of the N. Beacon Hill Community Council meeting this coming Thursday, September 8th 7pm at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue, S.
This meeting will give the public its first opportunity to view the details of and comment on the proposal.
There is some doubt about the existence of a community of dog owners actively using the dog park. The hope is that the community will make their presence known at the upcoming Council meeting.
Whether the off-leash area will be reconfigured, or how, remains up in the air. The Mayor’s office has given assurances that “the concrete has not yet set.” One Parks staffer called this Council meeting “a first step” in the public process.
Indications are that chain link will not go up until after the public has had a chance to comment.
The blueprint of the proposed change shows considerable buffer area between the newly adjoining bike trail and the off-leash area – purportedly for the purpose of protecting the dogs and the bikers on the trail from each other. It is rumored that the proposed buffer area is to be divvied up for a pea patch, nature study area, garden and a cordoned-off orchard. “Steep slopes and the unstable nature of the hillside” are cited as cause for relocating the off-leash area. Other rationales for the boundary redesign include the notion that making the off-leash area smaller makes it safer because it frees up parcels of land that can be devoted to other user groups, the idea being that this will bring in more people (thus making the place safer). Parks is saying that reducing the size of the off-leash area makes it “more manageable.”Hopefully, the meeting will clarify exactly what is meant by that. Major cuts in the Parks Department budget leave open the question of maintenance at Jose.
Keeping the off-leash area fence in repair has been a chronic problem for the Parks Department due to vandalism. SDOT will install and pay for the new fence.
The Jose Rizal Off-Leash Area was established in 2001 and there is still no regulation Parks Department sign announcing where it is.
The Citizens for Off-Leash Areas board has made it very clear they will not “take charge” of the Jose Rizal off-leash area until 1) the City deals with the illicit activity and maintenance issues and 2) the community becomes more involved. The COLA board maintains it has been unable to find anyone to steward the site. As far as COLA is concerned, Jose is “inactive.”
If anyone would be interested in serving as the steward of the Jose Off-Leash Area PLEASE contact COLA (see www.coladog.org for information on what this involves.) The fact that COLA has no steward for Jose is one of the reasons the City wants to decimate the dog park.
The Parks Department Superintendent has said that the COLA board is “enthusiastic” about the idea of reducing the size of the off-leash area. COLA representatives are expected to attend the Community Council meeting.
The general belief that no one uses the off-leash area because people are fearful of crime seems to be what is driving the City to dismantle the current off-leash area. Whether low attendance is due to fear, whether it’s due to neglect on the part of the Parks Department and COLA, whether it’s true that nobody is using the site – these are all considerations the City must take into account before scrapping the off-leash area’s original concept.
The bike trail will be lit and is wide so police units on bikes can ride by routinely and monitor the site. This promises to put a literal spotlight on any covert activity in the off-leash area.
CraigThompson, longtime Beacon Hill resident who may be credited for conserving the Jose urban forest, said about Jose Rizal Park, “When we get bicycle commuters coming through the Jungle on the Greenway Trail this will not be an attractive place for criminals.”*
The exact impact of the bike trail on dangerous activity – real or imagined – in the off-leash area may never be known if the City gives up on the off-leash area and goes with the “integrative approach (where multiple user groups are introduced). The strategy is called “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” or CPTED.
(Crime Prevention Through Off-Leash Dogs was last season’s fashion!)
Many dog owners say Jose is their favorite off-leash area. It is like a miniature Marymoor Park only much easier to get to. New parameters at the park could make all the difference in attendance. An active steward, social media, the bike trail, police patrols, lighting plus a modicum of tender loving care and – who knows? – Jose could blossom into Seattle’s premiere off-leash area.
There was a public forum in 2005 when the question of multi-use design in the park was discussed. If anyone would like to share their knowledge of the history of the park, the initial vision for the Jose off-leash area, please post it.
Anyone wishing to show support for keeping the off-leash area in its current configuration or larger, please go onto the website www.home.earthlink.net/~fojrola and sign the guestbook.
De facto steward
Jose Rizal Off-Leash Area