For 20 years, Seattle’s dog parks have been underfunded and underserved by Seattle Parks and Recreation. Our maintenance issues have been neglected and our reasonable requests for more land have been ignored. Despite the fact off-leash areas are used by 25% of the city’s population, they have been viewed as nuisance recreation. This attitude is a direct reflection of how dog parks are regarded by the upper echelons of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s administration. But now we have an opportunity to change all of that.
Earlier this year, the Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation resigned, so our new mayor Jenny Durkan needs to appoint someone to fill this role. We are asking her to make sure the new superintendent is not only a dog lover, but also supports the dog parks and the need for more legal off-leash land. The superintendent is ultimately responsible for all decisions that the parks department makes, so this is our best opportunity to change the direction of dog park development for the foreseeable future.
We need you to send her an email asking for a pro-dog park superintendent. Click here to send an email today!
Historically, the need for dog parks has not been taken seriously because it was viewed as a dog issue, not a people issue. We know that unless you are Eclipse the bus-riding dog, dogs don’t take themselves to park. Their owners do that. Dog parks are places where dogs play, but they are also the place where owners go to meet their neighbors and be around other dog-lovers. They are outdoor community centers that allow us to exercise our pups while socializing with other people. We need a superintendent that sees the important role these parks play, not someone who views them as a burden on the parks system. This appointment is our best hope for real change in the department, so we need our new mayor to hear your concerns. Please email Mayor Durkan today to request a dog-park friendly superintendent appointment!
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Just copy and paste the email below (or write your own) and email to email@example.com:
Subject Line: Search for new dog-owner friendly Superintendent.
Dear Mayor Durkan,
I am writing you today about the search for a new Superintendent for Seattle Parks and Recreation. It is my desire to see a Superintendent installed that is not only dog friendly, but also one that understands the needs of dog owners and supports the expansion of Seattle’s off-leash area system.
Since the inception of Seattle’s original dog parks in 1997, expanding and maintaining our city’s off-leash area system has been a constant struggle. The OLAs were unfunded for 20 years, and the needs of dog owners were never taken seriously, and Seattle now trails our peer cities in off-leash space by an average of 75 acres. Today, there are over 200,000 dogs in the city and, based on multiple Seattle Parks and Recreation surveys, over a quarter of city residents use our dog parks. Despite this sizable demographic, off-leash areas are only 26 of the 6200 acres of parks in the city, leading to overcrowded dog parks. Furthermore, this acreage is poorly distributed around the city, and three of the seven council districts have an acre or less of total off-leash space each.
In 2017, Seattle Parks and Recreation released the People, Dogs and Parks Master Plan. This plan sets no goals or targets for legal off-leash space, but rather attempts out to solve the off-leash dog problem solely by increasing fines and enforcement of off-leash violations. It formalizes the previous process for adding new off-leash space, a meaningless public comment period followed by the superintendent’s executive decision, the same process that has led to only 2.3 new acres of off-leash space in the past 16 years (half of that in a poorly-designed OLA under I-5). Until we get a parks superintendent that understands the needs of dog owners, Seattle will continue to under-serve the existing demand for off-leash space, and fall even shorter of meeting the increasing demand of our growing city.
When looking for a new superintendent, I implore you to look for a candidate that is committed to effectively solving the off-leash problem. Parks are not just places for people to sit on benches and look at trees; parks are shared spaces for recreation and activity. For 25% of Seattle’s citizens, that activity involves off-leash recreation with their dog. We need a superintendent that will work with community groups to expand our off-leash system to more adequately meet the needs of the people. We need a superintendent who will look into options like multi-use off-leash areas, installing lights to expand usable hours inside OLAs, increasing the size of existing OLAs, and funding maintenance issues like drainage in our existing dog parks so they are usable year-round.
In addition, I hope that you would consider the same qualifications for new appointees to the Parks Board of Commissioners. Currently, the nine-member board is a statistical anomaly as not a single board member is a dog park user. We need the Parks Board to be inclusive and representative of all park users, and in Seattle this includes dog park users. Thank you for your time and consideration on this issue.
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