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With animal control tickets about to ramp back up in Seattle, this group wants a dog park in Cal Anderson

Most mornings and afternoons, Cal Anderson is a dog park. Volunteer Park, too. But the chaos of the pandemic is about to give ground to the order of Seattle City Hall and a group of Capitol Hill dog owners is frustrated with the options.

“During the pandemic we have paused issuing citations, but as our county is in Phase 3 and seeing more public recreational activity, citations will likely resume in the near future,” a Seattle Parks spokesperson tells CHS. There’s no date — yet — for resumption, but tickets are coming soon for owners allowing dogs to run free in city parks or on forbidden ground like Cal Anderson’s Bobby Morris playfield turf.

Cal Anderson, meanwhile, is in the middle of community and city discussions that began in the wake of CHOP and have continued with groups and advocates working to take on new projects around the park — though progress on providing outreach resources, or resources like phone charging stations, rain shelters for mutual aid providers hasn’t kept up with smaller efforts like clean-ups and new decorative lighting. The busy park serves a lot of needs. Adding room for a dog park for neighbors living around the green space does not seem likely to be one of them.

(Image: Cal Anderson Pooches)

During the COVID-19 restrictions with people working from home and an explosion in the pandemic puppy population, Capitol Hill’s park areas already busy with dogs have become even more active. It can be a real scene and friendships both human and canine have formed.

That kind of good dog energy led to the formation of the Cal Anderson Pooches Facebook group long before COVID-19 arrived. Parsa Shams, a software manager who lives in the area with his small terrier Bilbo Shaggins, says the group has been trying to work with the city to meet the clear demand and create an area for dogs at or near the park but that the pandemic and seeming bureaucratic indifference has sidetracked the push.

“There have been bigger problems in Cal Anderson,” Shams acknowledged. “As a whole, the Seattle Parks Department is not responsive to the idea,” he said.

In 2017, Seattle Parks responded to the frequent calls for new dog parks and off leash areas with an “Off Leash Area Community Proposal Process” designed to channel community requests for new dog friendly areas in the city. For a Capitol Hill area blessed with two historically protected parks, the process contains a major show stopper — community proposals cannot be sited in a park that is a designated Seattle landmark.

Shams says the landmarks restriction is one problem for his group’s attempts at submitting a proposal.

Seattle Parks has also pushed back on the notion of dedicating any space in Cal Anderson for dogs because of concerns over drainage and the 12 or so million gallons of drinking water in the reservoir below the park.

Capitol Hill dog owners looking for a place to play have two options — both in the shadow of I-5. At the base of Pine above downtown, Plymouth Pillars Park has a small, gravel covered off-leash area above the freeway. Meanwhile, owners can also hike down into the Colonnade Park underneath I-5 in the Lakeview-Eastlake border zone.

Neither is ideal, Shams says, with the roar of the freeway rushing by. “As a human, I wouldn’t find that area a relaxing environment,” he said.

And the existing parks also aren’t the point. Shams says his group is trying to work within the Seattle Parks framework for creating new off-leash areas but the process isn’t designed to solve the challenges in a densely populated, expensive neighborhood like Capitol Hill.

For now, “park code still stands that off leash dogs are only permitted outside in off leash areas (dog parks), and animal control officers continue move through the city reminding people of these rules,” the Seattle Parks rep says.

Until the ticketing begins, the number of dogs running around Bobby Morris ebbs and flows through the day. It’s fun if you don’t mind the occasional shouts of “down!” and “don’t eat that!” or the frequent potty breaks.

“Cal Anderson is an open space that has led to a lot of connections,” Shams said.

You can learn more at facebook.com/groups/cal.anderson.pooches.


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Bob
Bob
20 days ago

The people who bring their dogs out onto cal anderson playfield are the most self entitled assholes in the city.

A dog park at Cal Anderson would be a great idea, there seems like plenty of room there and demand for it.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
20 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Consistent with your characterization, the parks department has found that putting an off-leash area in a park can actually increase the rate of illegal off-leash activity in the park instead of reducing it.

Bob
Bob
20 days ago

I think there is an issue with these specific people that go to cal anderson. I’ve had softball games there where they would not move out of the field and we had to play around them.

Also I can’t bring my leashed dog through the park anymore due to poorly trained off leash dogs coming up and causing incidents.

Derek
Derek
20 days ago

NO! Stop bringing dogs to Cal Anderson! So many parks in the city to go to. Cal Anderson is for the PEOPLE not the dogs.

Hdawg
Hdawg
20 days ago
Reply to  Derek

Yes, just look at all these dog parks we cab take our pets. 2 (two!) parks under the freeway. Give me a break.

CapHillDogParks.jpg
Bob
Bob
20 days ago
Reply to  Hdawg

Are you just trolling? The Plymouth Pillars dog park is right next to an apartment complex on Pine St, well above the interstate, you can’t even notice it.

People are just lazy and can’t walk their dog a few extra blocks. The attitudes of the current capitol hill residents is why I moved out of there.

Adam
Adam
20 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Can’t even notice it? I lived in that building you reference and had a dog that frequented the park. You can most certainly “notice” it.

Derek
Derek
20 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Agree. Everyone has become insufferable. Not sure if it’s the new wave of tech bro gentrifiers or what…it’s gross behavior.

Tom R
Tom R
20 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Are you just trolling? East Capitol Hill is certainly much more than “a few extra blocks” from either dog park.

FWIW I agree the Plymouth Pillars dog park isn’t really on the interstate, but that’s besides the main point that basically no dog parks exist on the hill. And I-5 Colonnade isn’t exactly my idea of a nice park…

Bob
Bob
19 days ago
Reply to  Tom R

It’s a 9 minute walk. Yes, this too much to ask anyone.

Tom R
Tom R
19 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Ah yes, that quick 9 minute walk (actually 30+ minutes) from 19th over to Plymouth Pillars.

The point isn’t how far it is to walk from Cal Anderson to Plymouth Pillars. The point is that East Capitol Hill is nowhere near a dog park and could certainly use a new one.

There are not “So many [dog] parks in the city to go to”…

Bob
Bob
19 days ago
Reply to  Tom R

If you can’t walk 9 minutes further go live in the suburbs.

Mimi
Mimi
20 days ago

I love the unofficial dog park at Cal Anderson. It does bring people and dogs together in a positive way. I think the dogs should stay off the play field but I would love it if an area of the grass was designated as a dog park. I don’t buy the concerns about the water quality after what was allowed in the park for most of 2020.

Soo Valley
Soo Valley
20 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

Have you looked at a dog park lately? There is no grass.

Dr. M. Leashington
Dr. M. Leashington
20 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

The play field is the only safe place to take my leashed dog because of all the off-leash dogs running around in the rest of the park.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
20 days ago

Your dog isn’t supposed to be on the play field period, on or off leash….

Frank
Frank
19 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

Just have insurance for your dog when it gets into a fight with another dog, bites a kid or injures a runner.

keep the tickets around for those poorly trained humans who don’t clean after their dog.

Mimi
Mimi
19 days ago
Reply to  Frank

It’s amazing to me that there is more indignation about dogs than there is for the humans who destroyed the park and made it unusable for most of last year. When they are ticketed and held accountable for leaving human waste in the park than I’ll entertain a serious conversation about dogs, until then I say let the dogs play and find another reason to clutch your pearls.

Caphiller
Caphiller
18 days ago
Reply to  Mimi

Amen!

Williams Place dog park
Williams Place dog park
20 days ago

Williams Place Park across from Bakery Nuevo and Safeway is the perfect location for a dog park

Mimi
Mimi
20 days ago

There’s a large, grassy fenced in area on 17th Ave. between Olive and Howell that would be a perfect dog park. A mansion was torn down several years ago and the lot has remained empty. I wish the city would purchase the land and make it a dog park.

Ariel
20 days ago

Oh hey that’s an interesting idea. Before it was an encampment, that park never had much going on. A dog park could be an interesting use of the space.

Alternately, Seven Hills?

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
20 days ago
Reply to  Ariel

Seven Hills has a P-Patch. It’s not compatible with heavy dog use.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
20 days ago

Hardly. According to Parks’ own findings, off-leash use kills trees, and the trees in Williams Place Park are its greatest asset.

Caphiller
Caphiller
20 days ago

Hah, if you want your dog to step on a heroin needle…

Dogs
Dogs
20 days ago

It’s way too small
Have you seen how many dogs are at Cal Anderson regularly?

KinesthesiaAmnesia
KinesthesiaAmnesia
20 days ago

We could all use more dog parks. As a person that’s anaphylactically allergic to dogs but enjoys walking through and using parks, I like that there are designated dog areas so the whole park doesn’t get treated like one. Then I can try to avoid those designated dog areas and paths leading to it. I also support animal control educating Seattle dog owners on their rights & responsibilities. Not just leash laws but stuff like: is the dog registered with the city animal shelter (I hope they offer corrective advice before they write tickets).

Ariel
20 days ago

It’s reference to a terrier named BILBO SHAGGINS for me.

JTContinental
JTContinental
19 days ago
Reply to  Ariel

That’s what I’m here for

genevieve
genevieve
20 days ago

I used to like the unofficial off leash parks (I love dogs), but the increased density means more and more people in living spaces without yards – and a lot of them have dogs. Too many people using public (or in the case of Seattle University’s main lawn, private) spaces as their own back yard kind of spoils the whole thing for everyone.

Cal Anderson Park is too small to have an off-leash area and still primarily serve people. That main flat area used to have a lot of frisbee, croquet, or just people lounging around – it would be a real bummer to have it fenced off and turned into an off-leash area, but I don’t know where else it could go and still be big enough to function well for the dogs. IIRC there was a push several years ago to get an off-leash park in Volunteer Park, which definitely has the space. Maybe that would be worth pursuing again.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
20 days ago
Reply to  genevieve

Severe damage to the park’s trees (per the Parks arborists) led to closure of the Volunteer Park off-leash area. Parks then opened another one there, and was successfully sued for not doing an environmental assessment.

genevieve
genevieve
19 days ago

Thanks for the reminder – was it just a pilot project that damaged the trees? I do recall that not doing an environmental assessment shut it down. IIRC, the off leash park was to be sited basically where the NW Asian American Museum expansion ended up – possibly they could go through the correct channels this time and look at another part of the park.

I’m not committed to Volunteer Park, BTW. I literally have no dog in this race. But I do think another off-leash area in Capitol Hill is needed, and Cal Anderson Park is not a good location. I liked the other suggestion of the grassy open space (where a building was razed and nothing has replaced it yet) on 17th, but pretty sure that’s still private property. I doubt the city is in the mood to purchase land for an off-leash park right now.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
19 days ago
Reply to  genevieve

Every off-leash area starts as a “pilot project,” but as far as I can recall only the ones in Volunteer Park and maybe one other one did not become permanent. For many years Parks gave the dog lobby, rather than professional staff, the power to set the criteria for making these areas permanent.

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
19 days ago
Reply to  genevieve

Parks has learned through public comment that many people who are afraid of dogs, or elderly, or who are unstable when they walk do not visit the parks because of the presence of unleashed dogs. The dog owners are denying other people the use of the parks in favor of their own pets.

Farro
Farro
18 days ago
Reply to  genevieve

Where I’m from, the park near my house (which is admittedly larger than any park in Seattle) has off leash hours rather than a dedicated off leash area. Basically before 9 AM and some time in the evening (never been to the evening) dogs are allowed off leash in most of the meadowed sections of the park, but they must be on a leash at all other times (and owners are still responsible for cleaning up). It works very well and is incredibly popular, but manages to keep the park clear the rest of the day for other users. I don’t know of any other program like it but I think something like that would be a good fit for a handful of parks, including Volunteer park.

You’d probably still want a smaller dog off leash area that has extended area closer to Cal Anderson or 19th though.

LeSigh
LeSigh
20 days ago

I wonder what the Venn diagram of the people trashing the park with off-leash poop machines and people who complained about the unhoused neighbors looks like. I can’t even count how many times I’ve slipped on dog $h!t partially clean up on the astroturf.

Hdawg
Hdawg
20 days ago

Am I missing something here? With roughly 60,000 people in this Capitol Hill neighborhood (which also happens to be the densest neighborhood in Wa State), we have two tiny off leash parks where our dogs can run free w/out getting a ticket if caught. Both parks under the freeway, they’re inconvenient to get to, they’re loud, and don’t feel safe. Animal control LOVES their jobs btw. I got my 2nd ticket @ Volunteer for $130 for my 14 year old Labrador who has trouble walking as it is. I’ve lived in Seattle since the 1970’s as a kid, and I don’t have (or want) kids. I have pets and I’m a responsible dog owner. This is ridiculous!

CapHillDogParks.jpg
Kevin wiebusch
Kevin wiebusch
20 days ago
Reply to  Hdawg

The dog park on Boren is NOT under the freeway. I live a block away and can attest it is right next to a apartment building on Pine and Boren.

Derek
Derek
20 days ago
Reply to  Hdawg

You say this like dense areas are supposed to have dog parks or that you’re entitled to one. There’s so many in the city. And many within walking distance. Cal Anderson is a park for PEOPLE and has been for generations. It should not be turned into a dog park to satisfy entitled dog owners.

PNDogs
PNDogs
20 days ago

There is a dearth of dog parks in the city, but as a dog owner I don’t believe Cal Anderson is the right place for one.

I’d love to see fenced off leash dog areas in some of our bigger parks like Volunteer Park, Jimi Hendrix, and some spots along Lake Washington. There are huge grassy areas that could easily accommodate a fenced dog park while still leaving plenty of space for picnics, frisbee, etc. Many of these locations already have “unofficial” off leash dog areas and adding a fenced area would improve safety for people and dogs. I only let my dogs off leash at official off leash areas out of respect for other people and it would be nice to have more options in walking distance of the hill/CD area.

Bob
Bob
20 days ago
Reply to  PNDogs

There is an off leash park adjacent to Jimi Hendrix park.

Duh
Duh
20 days ago

“For a Capitol Hill area blessed with two historically protected parks, the process contains a major show stopper — community proposals cannot be sited in a park that is a designated Seattle landmark.”

That’s weird, because there’s a useless, untended and dying “community garden” that was leftover from CHOP and affirmed by the City in an area that used to be used for outdoor movies and community events. Public policy only works when it’s consistently applied.

Adam
Adam
20 days ago
Reply to  Duh

*insert chin-stroking emoji here*

Williams Place Dog Park
Williams Place Dog Park
20 days ago
Reply to  Duh

It is such BS that the “community garden” is still there. I guess it is a monument to stupidity and spinelessness. This area was a community resource until the city invited the occupation, privatization and destruction of the park during CHOP by anarchists, drug addicts, and homeless activists. It is the only portion of the park that is not activated. It should be ripped out and restored for use for movies, plays, concerts, picnics, and events. What a waste.

RWK
RWK
19 days ago

Agree! It was entirely predictable that the garden would be untended and abandoned as soon as CHOP was gone. Hopefully, the Parks Dept will wake up and restore the area to its former state.

MizzDirected
MizzDirected
20 days ago

Delightful. Seattle looks like a third world country on many street corners, but here comes the dog citation brigade.

Derek
Derek
20 days ago
Reply to  MizzDirected

Here comes the Hyperbole Man

Adam
Adam
20 days ago

We recently chatted with a Parks rep at Cal Anderson who described the situation, in detail. They mentioned that smaller cities like Portland and others (can’t remember them now) have way more dog parks than Seattle. As one of the densest and fastest-growing neighborhoods in the city, Capitol Hill definitely needs a new off-leash dog area to accommodate all of the pandemic puppies.

GregoryH
GregoryH
19 days ago

Capitol Hill doesn’t have enough open space for the human population. For a long time, the accepted standard was 10 acres per 1000 residents, and seattle as a whole is close to that with 8.9 acres per 1000. Cal Anderson is 7.3 acres. Volunteer park is 48 acres. Interlaken is 51 (but is heavily forested and really on the margins of the hill.)

To match the city’s average, we’d have to have 534 acres for the 60k residents of capitol hill. If we assume that adding up all of the parks and publicly accessible open space that is ON the hill would yield 150 acres, maybe 200 acres (That’s a pretty big stretch I’d guess) we’re only at 2.5 acres per 1000 residents.

We can’t make that much more open space, and I’m all for density. Why don’t more people think about where they’ll run that dog before they go an adopt/buy it?

genevieve
genevieve
17 days ago
Reply to  GregoryH

Probably the same reason people choose dogs without learning about the breed first.

zardoz
zardoz
19 days ago

I am a native since 1969. I have seen some of the worse cases of white privilege in Seattle as of late. The Seattle World School 1700 E Union St, Seattle, WA 98122… Is a school with a field. At any givrn day this play field meant for kids is over run by dogs. They have literally turnef this school playground into a dog park. I have taljed to the tesvherd at the schoolabd the oarks departments. They have said the kids wilk gdt dog fecal matger on thier clothes the dogs dig holes which is dangerous fir the kids. And the field has to be fe grassed which comes out of the school budget. When i have confronted the dog owners, the reply was, “we pay taxes”. This is a fiekd for children, shom have to play on tbe concrete. Would you want your kids playing on that field? I just feel if this was a school in sny ither neighborhood this would not happen, but because its a school in the central district its OK. Look your dogs are destructive and schools already have a limited budget. How dare you put the livelihood of your dogs before children. Its selfish, and cruel. Please go take a look at the field its shameful this is what a chikdrens field should look like? Its shameful and its irresponsible. And the majority white dog owners are only thinking of the convenience, and themselves. Please help insure that the kids at the world school have a field they can enjoy.

newyorkisrainin
newyorkisrainin
19 days ago
Reply to  zardoz

Agreed completely. I see folks disregard the plain signage and consistent rules of no dogs on public playfields (and tennis courts! ugh ruining the already ill maintained court surface). So selfish.

The city does lack green and park space (for dogs and for people) and it’s not clear why this isn’t a bigger priority for them when the area is growing so rapidly.

Hmmm
Hmmm
19 days ago

I’d like to see some pretty extreme enforcement on people who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop. Like, $500-$750 fine for the first offence, $1K-$1.5K for the second.

It’s not easy to catch people in the act, but I have. Get a few people to have a shrieking meltdown about their ticket on Twitter, and many more will fall back into line.

Whichever
Whichever
19 days ago

Seattle dog culture at its finest.

Roger Dodger
Roger Dodger
19 days ago

Nah I’ll keep taking my dog to the park. She doesn’t shit on the field and responds to being called. That’s all I can do for you guys. Don’t like it? Lobby for dog parks like every other major city has.

And an easy way to avoid animal control tickets is to laugh at them and walk away.

Biggie Smalls
Biggie Smalls
19 days ago

Ticket them all. Dog owners probably should have thought about this BEFORE moving to a densely populated neighborhood.

Randy from POWHat
Randy from POWHat
19 days ago

I am curious if dog owners have thought about raising money to buy a property in Capitol Hill and then give it to the parks department to make into a dog park?

yetanotherhiller
yetanotherhiller
18 days ago

I think the City’s original intent, stated in a Council resolution, was that after a few pilot projects in parks the dog lobby would find private land for any additional off-leash areas.

MarciaX
MarciaX
19 days ago

I’m fine with dogs in Cal Anderson if they’d just stay out of the grocery stores. Do we have a deal?

L P
L P
19 days ago

The 40 acre Marymoor off lease park is one of the best in the northwest. It’s run in partnership between King County and volunteers. It’s not easily accessible for urban dog owners in Seattle, but it’s worth visiting to see how a well run off leash looks and is maintained.

I’m not a fan of people letting dogs run loose in Cal Anderson, but as people have pointed out Seattle doesn’t have enough dog parks. During a time when more people have dogs, doubling down on fines and status quo park usage doesn’t seem like a great solution. If we want dogs off playfields, give dog owners a place to take them that is as pleasant as any park.

joanna
18 days ago

Much of the problem is that there isn’t enough lovely open space for humans in that part of Capitol Hill and south into the CD. I would say Cal Anderson is just barely adequate for the Pike/Pine area. Luckily it includes a play field and some tennis courts. The location of the reservoir underneath certainly adds to the argument against encouraging more dogs there.

Jaki P
Jaki P
14 days ago

A dog park would be a lovely idea. There are very few in the area, yet so many dogs. Residents are going to continue bringing theirs to the large space and letting them off leash regardless, so you may as well give them a place to safely do so.