From the July 28, 2010 edition.
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By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
The question of whether or not a fenced dog park should be constructed at Hiller Park was once again reviewed by the McKinleyville Community Services District Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) at its July 22 meeting.
However, the meeting quickly turned into a discussion about loose dogs in the park.
Only two members of the public showed up, and both were strongly opposed to allowing dogs to run unleashed in the park.
“If dogs can continue to run free throughout the trail system, I don’t feel safe,” said McKinleyville resident Carol Heidsiek. “My children have been knocked over by dogs and chased by dogs. I keep my dog on a leash, because I want to be able to control him. If my dog is on a leash, and another loose dog comes up, a fight will ensue. There’s no way around it. So I don’t ride my horses, my daughter is afraid to go for a walk, and I don’t take my leashed dog in the park any more.”
Charles Wilson, an Orick resident, said that he had been attacked by loose dogs six times, and now carried a baseball bat to defend himself when he walked in the park.
“We’ve had many complaints over the years about dogs off leash and causing the very problems you’re describing,” observed committee member John Kulstad. “I have six dogs, and I very seldom walk them there for those reasons. Dogs on the loop trail ought to be on a leash.”
Parks and Recreation Director Jason Sehon pointed out that the RAC was not proposing any changes in existing regulations, but only considering whether or not a fenced dog park should be built.
At present, dogs are allowed to run unleashed throughout most portions of Hiller Park, and even if the fenced dog park is built, they will still be allowed to do so.
He pointed out that many dog owners have expressed very different opinions about this issue. Any decisions changing these regulations would have to be made by the MCSD Board of Directors, not the RAC, which only advises the board.
This did not satisfy Heidsiek.
“My concerns are not being addressed,” she stated. “When a loose dog approaches me, and I don’t know if they’re going to jump on me, or growl at me or bite me, I have a certain amount of apprehension. I can’t enjoy my walk… The bulk of my experience with off-leash pet owners in that park has been that I’m interfering with their dog’s right to be free. My right to have a safe walk in the park or ride my horse isn’t important to them.”
Committee member Jamie Rutten said that her own dog had been attacked and bitten by unleashed dogs, but that she was still “on the fence” about the issue.
Sehon urged Heidsiek to attend the next MCSD board meeting, and express her feelings there.
“Public opinion at these meetings tends to be skewed towards dog owners,” Heidsiek said. “You need to manage this park the way other parks and public lands are managed, to ensure multiple use in a safe manner. That means dogs need to be leashed.”
The RAC did not take any formal action, because it did not have a quorum.