Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rotating Hours

In the never-ending process of talking about possible dog park solutions without ever having to take action, a system of rotating hours has been suggested. In fact, one of the Parks Advisory Commission (PAC) members who is sympathetic to our frustration recently told me that this is what we should be lobbying for rather than a proper dog park. I think a rotating hours system could work, but only as a partial solution and only if it were organized right.

Basically the idea is that rather than building a fence and designating it as permanent off-leash area, the city would declare that a certain area in a certain park was an off-leash area during certain hours. In a rotating system, this designation would shift between different parks on different days so that each neighborhood gets its share of off-leash time.

There are two major reasons (and a handful of smaller ones) that this is probably insufficient.
  • First is the problem of safety. If an area is not permanently designated for off-leash, it is unlikely to get a fence. Without a fence there will always be problems with dogs getting out. It would only take one squirrel to get their attention and we could end up with dogs in the street, lost dogs, even dogs hit by cars. Ann Arbor has the resources for a safe solution and we deserve it.
  • The other major problem I foresee is scheduling. Having an off-leash area available for a few hours a week is not sufficient. We like to take our dogs to play every day. We've always done that when we lived in other towns and we would do it now if it were possible. So far there is no guarantee that a rotating hours system would include an off-leash area during all park hours. There is no reason to believe that dog time wouldn't be pushed to the most undesirable hours of the week, restricted to just one or two days city-wide, or subject to change at the whim of the city.

I do like the idea of off-leash hours insofar as it brings dog park to several neighborhoods at least once a week. However, this cannot be the primary solution to the problem. Safety has to be the primary concern and this means that we need fenced areas. Ideally there would be small neighborhood off-leash areas all over town in addition to the large Swift Run facility. That would allow people to walk and still be safe and available all the time. There is certainly the demand and resources for that, just not the will.

Let the City know that you demand a safe and convenient solution for the dog park problem.

1 comment:

Who Will Be Eaten First said...

I think that this is not a great idea for several reasons:

1) It's too complicated. I don't want to have to chase down where the dog park is on a particular day. It would be nice that on, for example, Wednesdays I might not have to drive all the way across town, but that doesn't mean that the other 6 days aren't going to be in spectacularly inconvenient locations. (Of course, the planned Swift Run spot is in a spectacularly inconvenient location for almost everyone in the city, but that's a different matter.)

2) It's going to irritate non-dog people because they will have to keep track of the dogs-okay hours of their park or because they won't even know about the rotating dog park hours and just show up to find their park swarming with dogs. Park activities are generally not time-bounded and are instead geographically-bounded. People that picnic at a spot in a park generally expect to be able to picnic in that same spot on any given day as long as the park is open.

3) Some people aren't going to clean up after their dogs. Is it really fair to the people who use the park for the rest of the week to have a city-sanctioned activity that leads to a shitty park?

4) Inevitably, something bad is going to happen between a dog and non-dog person who happens to be in the park. A hue and cry will go up, and there will be no rotating dog park. If in the meantime the city has used the existence of the rotating dog park as an excuse to not develop a dedicated dog park, we're back to square one. Bonus points if a child is involved.

The ideal solution to the dog park issue is... a dog park. Even a couple of fenced acres of grass with a couple of crappy old picnic tables would be great. I don't really understand why the city thinks that the options are nothing or gold-plated dog fantasy land. The rotating dog park idea is better than nothing, but nothing shouldn't even be on the table right now.