Toward Easing Off-Leash Tension at Woodstock Park

Recent incident raises both fears and hopes

Dog and child together
Image courtesy of Nogginmama.com via a Creative Commons license.

Recently at Woodstock Park, a dog strayed from the off-leash area, entered the playground and left a six-year-old child on the swings with “scratches and one puncture-looking cut/bruise,” according to the mother’s account on Nextdoor.com. The incident rekindled concerns over the close proximity of the two areas and the absence of a barrier between them.

It’s unclear whether the encounter owed more to aggression or exuberance. The dog and its owner left the park quickly after the incident, which was covered by KATU news.

Discussion of the matter took up a good chunk of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association’s October meeting, attended by both concerned parents and ambassadors for the off-leash area. Among the significant points that emerged:

  • Both sides expressed grave concern and a desire to work together.
  • A neighbor and dog owner who volunteers as an “ambassador” for the off-leash area at Woodstock park said neither he nor others recognized the dog and its owner as “regulars.”
  • When similar concerns were raised a little over a year ago, the Neighborhood Association repeatedly reached out to the city’s parks department but received little response.
  • The city currently has a vacancy in the staff position that’s most clearly responsible for sponsoring relevant changes at the park.
  • Ambassadors for the off-leash area suggested that a full fence may not be the best solution. The few fully fenced off-leash areas in Portland parks have shown a tendency to become de facto “doggy day-care” areas, where an inconsiderate owner might leave a dog unattended while using other areas of the park.

The most positive development that emerged was that a city representative had agreed to walk the park with stakeholders and consider options to improve separation, with a preference for using plantings and other landscape features rather than a full fence. Watch for outcomes in a future post.

In the wake of such incidents, it’s easy to oversimplify — but many families rely on the park as a place for both kids and dogs. Do you have constructive ideas on how best to serve both needs? Please comment below.

2 Comments on “Toward Easing Off-Leash Tension at Woodstock Park”

  1. Gloria Gedrose

    Mr. Walters, I have a document that addresses my concerns about Woodstock Park. you please send me your email address so that I can send you a copy of these concerns.

    Gloria Gedrose
    Resident of Woodstock
    Member of WNA
    g.gedrose@comcast.net