Cal Anderson is just a huge dog park
Funny Formally the Chop Area funny pic.twitter.com/8OtZSgNHiK
— Teri McClain (@terileemcclain) January 9, 2021
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.
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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