Petition to cut dog trail hours has some residents barking

Petition to cut dog trail hours has some residents barking
A woman walks with her dog at the Village Park off-leash dog trail. A recent petition calls for scaling back the hours of use, drawing the ire of some residents. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — Ninety minutes from sunset, dogs ran back and forth along a dirt path at Village Park dog trail as their owners watched on. 

Off-leash dogs are allowed at the trail, located east of El Camino Real, between Mountain Vista Road and Encinitas Boulevard, from dawn to dusk. But Conrad Norton, who has lived near the trail for five years, submitted a petition to council members two weeks ago to limit the hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the year.

Norton said there’s been a noticeable increase in dog walkers on the trail in the past nine months. Hence, noise levels and litter are on the rise, he believes.

“Our quality of life has gone down,” Norton said.

Norton said the trail is intended for exercise. Instead, dog owners often stop and socialize next to homes that border the one-mile spot, particularly at the break of dawn and near sunset.

On a related note, he would also like the city to uproot a Eucalyptus tree on the trail that he said serves as a place for early-morning gatherings.

“I’ve been woken up as early as 5:30 a.m. by people next to my home talking,” he said.

Seventeen neighbors signed the petition, he noted. As well as limiting the hours, Norton believes some days at the trail should be off limits for dogs.

But seven residents took to the podium during the public comments section of last week’s City Council meeting and swiped at the petition.

Julie Fisher has lived by the trail for nearly 25 years. She said the spot was revitalized after the city named it an official off-leash dog park. Before that, partying and overnight camping were common. And people dumped unwanted things in the area.

Now, it’s much cleaner because dog owners pick up after themselves, Fisher said, though she noted there’s some room for improvement.

Laurie Michaels, member of People and Dog Zones, said the local group holds quarterly cleanups to maintain the trail. She also noted the organization advocates for more dog areas in the city.

“By and large, people are very respectful of the trail,” Michaels said.

In response to the petition, those who support dawn to dusk hours drafted a petition of their own and quickly gained 67 signatures, Michaels said.

“Most people work during the day, so it’s very important they have time in the morning or time after their jobs to visit the park,” Michaels said.

She added that the area should remain as is because there are few places for dog owners in the city to frequent.

As for the rest of Encinitas, off-leash dogs are allowed at Viewpoint, Sun Vista and Orpheus parks from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Leashed dogs are permitted at most parks and trails in Encinitas, including Cardiff State Beach.

The Encinitas Community Park, off of Santa Fe Avenue and expected to debut next spring, will have a two-acre dog area.

Norton said he hasn’t received word on whether restricting the trail’s hours will be placed on a council agenda.

In the meantime, the Encinitas Parks and Recreation Department will host a community workshop for residents to discuss the trail, which is owned by the city.

Tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, the department didn’t return a call inquiring about the location and time of the workshop by press time.

More information about the meeting is scheduled to be posted on the city’s website in the next week or so.

 

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  1. Phil Melemed says:

    I would like to see the dog trail hours expanded by adding low energy use solar powered lighting so that the facility may be used by more residents including those whose personal schedule conflicts with the current dusk to dawn hours. I would also like to see improvements, if budgets allow, to include:
    1. Running water to enhance dog health and enjoyment.
    2. Running water for people too – for their health & enjoyment.
    3. Rest rooms for people.

    The dog trail is one of Encinitas’ primary assets. I believe if it were improved it would have a positive impact on our city’s property values and quality of life for it’s people as well as it’s dogs.

    Most of the rational offered by the dog trail critics seems selfish & irrational. Cutting down a perfectly good eucalyptus tree because it makes the trail too enjoyable for trail users is a prime example of this. Stating that trail users are supposed to be jogging & keep moving? Who gave that critic the right to decide how trail users are supposed to behave? For medical reasons, my wife and I are no longer able to jog but we sure can walk. Does the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)apply here? One of our dogs also has a medical condition that does not allow him to jog but he certainly enjoys walking at the trail.

    Please don’t cut hours or trees!

  2. Barbara J Ryan MD says:

    My husband and I frequent this dog park and have since we moved to Encinitas 4 years ago. This is a wonderful, off-leash dog park that we frequent almost daily with our hunting dogs. The dog owners who frequent this park are the most friendly, respectful people we have encountered in a group, and certainly those at a dog park. For the most part, this issue is fueled by one particular renter who lives adjacent to this park within the middle of the trail.

    We agree that people should not congregate in a prolonged manner, nor disrupt the privacy of those living along the area, which actually has been the scenario each time that we have visited this park. We fully respect that. We have not observed any dog owners there being disrespectful. However, the one person who began the petition along the trail is very hostile and aggressive to many that we have witnessed at the park. He appears to particularly desire confrontation. We have not been involved in any aggressive encounters, but we have witnessed several as our dogs and we have run along the trail on several occasions, and all the while not stopping. An entire tree within the city-owned trail has been cut down by this person per his own prerogative in retaliation. Possibly planting additional shade would allow many of the dog owners and dogs to rest elsewhere for a few moments away from this area, but I doubt this would change the behavior of this particular individual.

    We would be happy to lead a forum geared toward solutions and community satisfaction among the dog owners and those who reside along the trail. We find this entire issue such a tragedy for so many who respect others and use the trail appropriately. We personally truly appreciate the area as there is only one other local area (Dog Beach in Del Mar for 9 months of the year) which allows our hunting dogs the room to exercise fully off-leash. We are committed to residing happily and peacefully with out neighbors. I work as a surgeon and my surgical hours do not allow late morning hours or early evening hours usually to exercise our dogs. And my husband is an active duty military stationed in the South Bay with long commute hours when he is not deployed so his hours do not allow late morning or early evenings either usually to access the city park. We would like to be a solution rather than dictated to and regulated. We thank you for listening to our views. Sincerely, The Ryans

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