See Plans for Woodstock Park’s Off-leash Area

Cross-section of the At Woodstock Park, tensions ran high last fall when a child was injured by a dog on the playground. The city’s parks department proposed a divider between the playground and the adjacent dog off-leash area (DOLA for short). At February’s meeting of the Woodstock Neighborhood Association (first Wednesday of each month, 7 p.m. at the Woodstock Community Center), city reps presented what they have in mind. You can download and view their presentation, but keep in mind it’s a big (7MB) PDF file.

In a nutshell: It’s a gently curving border comprised of both shorter plants and taller trees, with a bench on either side but no formal fence. It’s intended to have enough presence to define the separate areas, but remain open enough that folks can see past it.

The presenters said that intentions are firm for installation this spring. They warned that initial activity won’t look like much; it will involve adding amendments to the soil and other prep work. Then the plants will be installed over about three days. The benefits should be immediate, though the plants will need about three years to get fully established.

The cost is estimated at about $22,000, to be picked up largely by the city. There may be a “memorial naming opportunity” for the two benches, to offset part of that cost; stay tuned for details.

So what do you think? Does this fit the need to keep the two uses separate without making anyone feel locked in?

25 Comments on “See Plans for Woodstock Park’s Off-leash Area”

  1. Richard Gedrose

    I have concerns with proximity of off-leash area to playground, even with a natural barrier. It appears Portland Parks is moving forward, but this seems to be an expensive allocation with no proven outcome. This from a department that is exploring options for another bond measure. Count me as unimpressed and disappointed

  2. Nick M

    I would love to see a fenced in area for the dogs, like you see at many dog parks. There’s more peace of mind with a dedicated fenced in area. There are so many dogs in the neighborhood, it would be a well used investment.

  3. Laurie J

    I would like to see a fenced area at Woodstock park. Dog owners there are not responsible enough to train their dogs to stay with in the boundaries. We walk our dogs at that park on leash and are constantly being approached by the off leash dogs. We might let them off leash if there was a fence. When off leash dogs are allowed to run over the rest of the park the owners are not cleaning up after them either. So the dog droppings are a problem. There are many responsible dog owners but as usual the irresponsible owners make it a bad scene for everyone else.

  4. Sally Senior

    I agree about the fence. It needs to be a real fence, although the addition of trees and shrubs and benches would be most welcome. A covered area for dog owners would be great. I would also send out a plea for a separate “small dog” fenced space, adjacent to the big dog park. Why not expand the DOLA into the NW corner of the park, an area which is highly underutilized? I would bet that if there was a user-friendly fenced dog area with additional tables and benches, quite a few people would be willing to “adopt a bench” to help fund it.

  5. Bill Walters Post author

    Hi all; thanks for your comments. Here’s a bit of context on fence vs. plants from discussions last fall: Dog folks attending the Woodstock Neighborhood Association meeting brought up that full fences don’t always work out so well at other parks, leading to a fenced area being used as drop-off doggie day care. That doesn’t trump your concerns, though.

  6. Jennifer Rueda

    It looks like a good plan to me. I’m not opposed to fencing the entire dog area, but other are (I’ve heard). This seems like a good compromise.

  7. Chrissa

    I would also love to see this fenced. I love my dogs but the reality is that dogs, even ones you think you know…can do unpredictable things. I have an older Lab who is the sweetest ever, but terrified of children so I cannot leave her off leash if she could encounter children because people are not teaching their children to be safe around dogs. Even after telling people she is nervous around kids, time and time again the parents do nothing as their child tries to hug my 90lb dog. I also have a pup who is distracted by her own shadow, so anything remotely near traffic is unsafe.
    The only other fenced dog park is on 62nd near Flavel and it is an absolute mud pit all winter. Has not seen any new bark chips in YEARS.

  8. Gena Fields

    I agree that the corner of the park facing 47 and Steele could be utilized. I also agree with a fence as I believe the big dogs may trample the new plantings. Also, there are too many dog owners who think their dog is above the law. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told their off leash dog on the playground was “nice” and not to worry. Some owners think it’s cute their dogs go down the slide! Also, the dog poop is a problem all over the park. I hope they will put in additional dog waste containers along Steele street. I often see bags of waste dropped on the sidewalk or inside my cans left out on garbage day.

  9. Sally Senior

    I’ve never personally witnessed anyone just dropping off their dog and leaving, but don’t deny that it may happen. I’d like to add focus to the more positive aspects of dog parks. Given a comfortable “gathering spot” such as a pergola with chairs, benches, dog and people water, a dog park can bring together neighbors who share at least one common interest. They may linger longer since they don’t have to stand out in the rain and mud, and thats good for the dogs and the owners alike. Very often friendships can be made there. People who live nearby with whom you can share dog sitting, walking, and who knows what else. It provides a place to make a connection with others. Something our neighborhood needs more of. For people who live alone or are retired, the dog park can provide a daily social interaction that many find essential. Not everyone has kids. Isn’t Portland one of the cities in the country with the highest dog-ownership?? There should be as much money and effort put into providing safe spaces for dogs to play as well as for children. Its not just a matter of dog/child safety or poop monitoring. It’s also about neighbors and community.

  10. Tom Larson

    I grew up living across from Woodstock Park for 18 years, before the dog park. (This is back when you could play Tennis Golf and get a SnoCone at the Snack Shack). Fencing off the dog area would be aesthetically horrific because it would cut across “the hill”. Basically, this “natural” feature should be sufficient and that 1%-of-the-time issue would still exist even with a fence because of dogs off-leash outside the official area.

    1. Sarah Holbrook

      There are aesthetic fence choices. Something like a “hog fence” with the natural planting would be a more effective barrier especially while the plants are being established. Of course, a fence adds to the upfront and maintenance costs. I agree that a fence on its own would be unpleasant.

      I lived in Victoria BC for a number of years and wish we had half the budget for gardens in parks! Woodstock Park can be rather dreary; a low hedgerow would brighten it up.

  11. Kevin Miller

    Fences create borders, borders create dominance points, and fights at fenced dog parks (especially at the entry point) are pretty common.

    There’s a reason why a lot of dog owners (including myself) come to Woodstock Dog Park instead of Brentwood Dog Park. If you talk to anyone who frequents both parks, one of the first things they talk about is how Brentwood has more dog fights, aggressive dogs, or the vibe is “on edge.” I attribute a lot of that to the fences and limited room for the dogs.

    In my opinion, if you’re going to do a fence, it needs to be a large area (larger than what’s designated for the dogs now) to prevent/reduce fights. Also, two gates with entry pens would be ideal.

    Woodstock Dog Park is my favorite, and I believe it’s my dogs as well. When the weathers nice, I’m there with my dog (Scout) at least four to five times a week. If Woodstock does become a fenced in park, I’ll be disappointed. I’ll still visit the park, but I’ll start to frequent other non-fenced parks such as Laurelhurst, Lents, Sellwood, and others more so.

  12. G Gutzler

    This looks like a good solution to me for families and dog owners alike. Most, if not all, dogs will be stopped by the barrier as they just need a redirect when immersed in play. They are not trying to get to the playground area, in general. This plan takes into account park aesthetics and safety for all so a good balance has been struck. Good job!

  13. Gary Bankston

    Year before last I surveyed residents living near parks where off-leash areas were converted to fully fenced off-leash areas. Everybody said if they had the opportunity, they would take the fence out. First, people drop their dogs off while they run errands or even go to work for the day. It’s free doggie-day care. It’s barking dogs all day and night. Then of course there is nobody responsible for cleaning up after their dogs. On a warm summers eve, residents couldn’t enjoy being outside because of the intense smell.

    Let’s not forget those families with kids and dogs. It’s often their dogs that come down into the kids play area, and it’s those kids that wander up into the off-leash area. In all the years there have only been a few incidents where dogs and humans have had issues resulting in injury. That said, I think that a barrier beats a fenced in area any day. If the barrier doesn’t work, then we should consider fencing in the kids play area, ensuring that no dogs, even those roaming free through the neighborhood, will cause problems in the play area.

    1. Kenny

      A fence around the play area is actually a very nice addition for parents as well. I once lived in a community with one, and when done well.. It makes it a lot easier to monitor children and keep them from running off into other areas of the park. Piece of mind for parents.

  14. Jonathan Gordon

    Looks like a great solution to me. And so affordable. Another fantastic example of how responsive this city is to the needs of its residents. Big thanks to all involved!

  15. David W

    Hi, my wife and I come here with our near 2 year old on a regular basis and live just a couple of blocks away. We used to own a dog for many years as well so I understand the utility both sides get from having the dual use structure (along with all the other amenities). However, there isn’t a visit to the park where off-leash dogs aren’t somewhere outside of their boundries or ‘walked’ off-leash through the park. Just last week we witnessed a couple who wanted a private area on Woodstock Elementary’s baseball court/play structure so they could throw a ball with their dog. That dog ran at a small boy riding his bike with his Grandma and knocked him over into a giant pool of water, where he sat crying and scared. The owners did practically nothing and continued playing in the area disturbing countless other families. Additionally, we constantly find and/or step in dog feces that is littered throughout the children’s playground. This is unhygienic and completely disgusting. It’s usually the few irresponsible dog owners who let their pets run around where they shouldn’t and either dont watch them defecate there, are distracted talking to friends or simply too lazy to pick it up. That alone is a reason for a fence… unless the good owners wish to patrol and keep clean the kids area. The last point is that even our doctor advised us not to let our kid pet dogs, no matter now ‘nice’ they are as they can be unpredictable, especially with kids who don’t have much control and are small in stature. The area needs to be segregated before something bad happens. Most of our neighbors agree and we all tense up when you hear packs of dogs fighting with each other and getting aggressive, especially when that moves downhill near the kids.

  16. Diana Comstock

    There are so many small children playing at this park. Dogs are unpredictable. Build an attractive fence. Those worried about aesthetics should be more concerned with child safety! A fence can be beautiful and provide safety. I saw a large dog go after a child on the swings before. Very scary.

  17. Angela Zehava

    May I suggest that thorny plants be incorporated into the hedge, such as berberis or particulaly thorny easy care shrub roses? Perhaps others have suggestions? I thought Lindera bezoin, which I have never grown, has thorns, but I’m not sure about that…

  18. Wendy Ferguson

    Not all humans follow rules, thus no solution will be perfect. My leashed dog was charged IN the playground by an off leash dog playing with its owner and her small children in the playground just last week. I have seen many instances of parents bringing their kids and their off leash dogs to the playground, which sends a very mixed message to the folks at the dog park.

    No one will follow the rules all the time. The only way to get them to is to enforce the rules, and we know there’s no money to do that. Next best option is for neighbors to politely challenge one another to follow the rules. It’s not comfortable, but it’s what needs to happen for things to work better.

    If the goal is to protect children in the play area, an attractive fence should be built around it. It would cost far less than fencing the dog area, and avoid the “doggy day care” reality seen at other fenced dog areas. If the goal is to reduce contact between dogs and children, the natural fence proposed is a lovely place to start.

  19. Bill Walters Post author

    Passing along a comment received from a neighbor via email:

    I am a lifelong resident of Portland and grew up across the street from Woodstock Park. Six years ago I moved back to the Woodstock neighborhood. I have watched with increasing concern the changes that have occurred at Woodstock Park since the off-leash area has been established and how this has impacted the park grounds and the people who wish to enjoy the amenities that the park has to offer.

    The off-leash area is not working as it is presently configured. A fenced area for dogs needs to be seriously considered for Woodstock Park. People have mentioned that some dog owners drop their dogs off for the entire day in a fenced off-leash areas and then leave. Gabriel Park, where this has occurred, has a secluded off-leash area away from the entrance area to their dog park. Woodstock has a much more open area where people would easily be reported if they tried to drop their dogs off and then leave. How often has this happened? Is the complaint about this an over-reaction to a few complaints or are many dog owners breaking the rule.

    Woodstock Park is not a dog park, but many users refer to it as a dog park. It is designated by the Portland Parks as a park with an off-leash area. People should be able to use the park without being confronted by off-leash dogs. Some people with children and dogs come to the playground and don’t leash their dogs. In the playground area, dogs must be on a leash. The hill adjacent to the play area should be a place where children can run, where children can roll down the hill, where dads and children can fly kites on the hill, where families can sit at picnic tables scattered around the grassy areas and have a picnic lunch. If the hill is planted with a buffer of shrubs and trees, we can all watch the beautiful, open, grassy space disappear.

    Here are some examples of off-leash areas that are done properly.
    Lake Oswego has one just beyond Lake Ridge H.S.
    Another one that I have visited is located at the Sand Point Naval Station in the Seattle area.
    I 84 near the Sandy river, has an off-leash area

    There are several points in this discussion that need to be addressed.
    There needs to be proper management of the off-leash dog area. How are the guidelines for the off-leash area managed?
    The off-leash area needs a surface that is appropriate for the use it gets from the many dogs that use it.
    Is the Park Bureau aware of the condition of the park at this time? Currently the off-leash area is a muddy mess. Does the Park Bureau have the money to repair the grounds of Woodstock Park?
    Is Woodstock Park a Dog Park or a park with an off-leash area?
    Placement of the dog park in the middle of the park is not appropriate and needs to be changed to a space away from the playground.
    If a dog behaves inappropriately in the park how does one report that problem? Who do they call?
    Is the Park Bureau and the city prepared for the cost of a child or adult being injured?

    There have been several incidents where dogs have behaved in a threatening manner or have injured people. Some of these encounters are documented in a past issue of “The Sellwood Bee.” I had some scary
    encounters with off-leash dogs while my grandchildren and I were riding our bikes in the park. No child or adult should have to be concerned about off leash dogs when they visit the park.

    How do people using the picnic area take their families to the playground that is just over the hill? Usually when you have a picnic, children play around the area. Presently the area around the picnic area is adjacent to the off-leash area. Some picnic tables could be located to the east side of the hill near the trees and extend across the hill. At the very least, the hill from the brick table to the trees should be part of the area reserved for families having a picnic. They would also have access to the playground. Gabriel Park is a good example where a picnic area and a playground are in close proximity to each other.

    In researching what is appropriate for the establishment of an off-leash area, it is recommended that off leash areas not be located near a playground area. The off-leash area at Woodstock Park is adjacent to the playground. A fenced off-leash area is often recommended. There is space for a moderately sized off-leash area down the north side of the hill extending to Steele Street and 47th Avenue. The entire off-leash area needs to be fenced. Fencing provides a safe area for dogs and also provides a safe area for families wishing to enjoy the amenities of the park. Shrubs alone will not keep the dogs in the off-leash area. Real fencing needs to be installed.

    Gloria Gedrose
    A longtime Portland Resident
    Grew up on SE 47th and Harold Street
    Attended Woodstock School and Our Lady of Sorrows
    Taught Elementary School in Tigard for 26 years
    Lived in Hillsdale for 35 years
    Returned to the Woodstock neighborhood in 2005
    Owned a Golden Retriever and several other dogs

  20. Natasha

    As a dog owner in the area, I strongly support a fenced off-leash area. It provides a secure area where dogs can play without danger of wandering away from owners or running into a street (which can happen even to responsible, watchful owners), and fences can also provide divided places for dogs of different sizes and/or activity levels to play safely. I can also understand the sense of safety it offers those who wish to wish to play in surrounding areas.

  21. Sandy

    I would love to see the playground portion fully fenced. Woodstock actually has an incredibly clean and responsible group of dog owners. I’m there every day supplementing their efforts. Fenced in dog areas are notoriously more conflict laden and infection-prone. Look at recent shut downs around Portland. Meanwhile, I’m paying additional taxes to support education and city fees to license my animals while human-child parents get tax breaks. Ideally I would like to quit getting treated like an interloper relegated to the nastiest minuscule portions of the amenities I pay for. How about a kid-free park?! One can dream.

  22. Jeff Hale

    Do we have an update on the off leash area? This is a problem and remains a concern for parents on the playground. Can we not relocate one or the other area? Build this barrier/fence. What will it take? I have had to admonish people without children letting their dogs play on the wood chips under the swings, when my child was swinging? These folks were aghast that I thought the 200 yards of dog park were plenty of room for their animals to play in. BTW I have 2 dogs and love them, a border and an aussie. I don’t allow them to play around small children, especially on a playground. I am friends with a pediatric surgeon who has worked on many many children who have been attacked by dogs… Come on, this is just a basic safety remedy here.

    1. becky

      Jeff, I am sorry to say I think that Parks dropped this landscape-fence project. I just left a message on the dog park hotline, hoping for a call back so I can update people on what’s going on. Thanks for expressing your concerns on your neighborhood association’s website. I encourage you to express yourself directly to the City (Parks and Recreation), since they are in charge of maintaining the park. Becky, WNA Vice Chair

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