ENCINITAS — The ones who barked the loudest won more time to run free at some of the city’s parks. City Council voted 4-1, with Councilman James Bond opposed, to expand off-leash hours for dogs at Orpheus, Sun Vista and Viewpoint parks on Nov. 18.
While the overwhelmingly supportive audience hollered for joy after the vote, at least one person in attendance was opposed to the outcome.
Steve Meiche, a dog owner and father of two young boys who has lived close to Orpheus Park for almost 20 years, said that dogs and kids are a bad mix at the parks. “There are urine stains everywhere,” he said. In addition to the animal feces and urine, Meiche said the expanded hours now means children and their families trying to enjoy the park before and after school and on the weekends will be outnumbered by dogs.
Councilman Jerome Stocks motioned to approve the Parks and Recreation Department recommendation to increase the off-leash hours at Orpheus, Sun Vista and Viewpoint parks by more than four hours per day. The new hours will be 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The current hours are from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“That park (Orpheus) was designed in the general plan as a neighborhood park,” Meiche said. “That park was not intended for what it’s being used for.” He said that various Web sites advertise Orpheus Park as a “dog park” and highlight the fact that there is sand for the dogs to run in.
Meiche said he was especially disappointed in the addition of Sunday to the off-leash days. “That is a day to rest, not to have to put up with a dog park in your neighborhood.”
Jeff Allen, who lives close to Hawk View Park, told the council he was in support of expanding off-leash hours. He said health concerns were not a reason to limit hours for dogs at parks. He said bacteria found in feces at the park live in all animals, not just dogs.
Chris Hazeltine, director of Parks and Recreation, said dog owners had specifically requested a weekend day to be added to the expansion. The city’s new ordinance will not go into effect until early 2010 according to city staff.
The meeting followed a Parks and Recreation Department sub-committee meeting where public input was given on the possibility of allowing off-leash hours at two additional parks — Hawk View off Quail Gardens Drive and Glen Park in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The discussion is expected to continue until the committee makes a recommendation to the council as early as next month.