Today, Seattle is in desperate need of more off-leash areas, having less than most major American cities. With approximately 25 acres of dog parks, and approximately 150,000 dogs in the city, our off-leash areas are extremely crowded and over used.
For nearly 20 years, COLA has been the 501c3 non- profit advocate for dog owners like you. COLA lobbied Seattle officials for every dog park Seattle has, manages the existing ones with volunteer stewards, and financially supplements the Parks Department’s efforts for sand and gravel, puddle prevention, and many other basic necessities.
This year for the first time the Seattle Parks and Recreation has a 6-year dedicated Off-Leash Area budget. The Mayor and City Council have designated the 2015 budget for developing a Dog Off-Leash Master Plan, as has been done for bicycles and skate parks in the city. They have specified COLA as a contributing author of the plan, in conjunction with Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Animal Control.
Our goal in this process is to define the Parks Department’s role as maintenance of the dog parks – allowing COLA’s membership dues to go directly to amenities, community building, and education, while advocating for many new dog parks. We believe we need to catch up to the number of dog parks Portland has (33)!
Overwhelming support from dog owners must be demonstrated this year to dramatically influence Seattle’s direction toward a better off-leash system. Throughout 2015, COLA will be seeking input and feedback from our members and dog park enthusiasts. We encourage you to join COLA to receive our newsletter and be informed of opportunities to participate in this input process.
Introduction by Ellen Escarcega, Chair of COLA
Citizens for Off‐Leash Areas (COLA) was formed in 1995 somewhat organically, as dog owners protested a crackdown on 1990s leash laws without anywhere to recreate legally with their dogs off‐leash. Over the last 20 years, COLA has fought for dog owners as taxpayers who consider their use of parkland with their canine companions as valid a use as soccer players, skateboarders, bicyclists, and other better supported recreation programs.
Toward this end, we have diligently worked as an all‐volunteer organization for nearly two decades to obtain and maintain off‐leash areas above and beyond the minimal maintenance Seattle Parks and Recreation has been able to provide with ever changing levy‐based funding. Puddles, erosion, and basic safety and cleanliness of our dog park system has been the primary focus of our work, alongside an active advocacy program. However, even with COLA’s diligent volunteer advocacy efforts, it has taken two and a half years on average for each new dog park to be created.
Having accomplished our original mission of getting dog parks to be accepted in Seattle parkland, and having stewarded and supplemented the funding for them since 1998, we are thrilled to see this year that the Seattle Parks and Recreation department now has some much needed funding in the Metropolitan Park District recommendations, by appropriating the first designated funding for the off‐leash program. With approximately $600,000 allocated for the first six years (2015 – 2021), this first year (2015) has been all about a study of the OLA system of support and provision of opportunities in order to create a document called the “People, Dogs, and Parks Strategic Plan.” This document will be released for public comment later this year by Seattle Parks and Recreation.
With this draft plan underway throughout 2015, COLA continues to advocate for dogs and their owners in Seattle. Whereas a SPD 2011 study yielded a dog park usage number of 11% of Seattle citizens, this year’s targeted and extensive survey data from an incredible nearly 4,000 dog owners showed that only four dog parks are in regular use, and there is a significantly high demand for better off‐leash recreation. The contrast between these two surveys leads to the conclusion that the 2011 low usage statistic was not due to low demand, but to the poor state of most of our dog parks themselves.
Thus, a major focus of our advocacy has been on broadening Seattle officials’ understanding of dogs, dog owners, and the overall community benefits of dog parks, moving the concept from gravel/chain‐link prison camps kept hidden from other park users toward adopting a plan for more park‐like grassy areas for dogs and their people of which Seattle can be proud. COLA leadership has been working large numbers of hours to advocate for and provide research on ways to facilitate more off‐leash land, while simultaneously improving existing off‐leash areas (OLAs for short). Much of the past year has included researching and analyzing data of other high density cities in the U.S. and Canada, including a comprehensive report for use by the Seattle Parks Department and investigative trips to Portland and Vancouver BC to assess their programs. This research has indicated Seattle’s off‐leash program lags far behind nationwide dog off‐leash efforts, which are undergoing a boom unlike any since children’s playgrounds 100 years ago. Trust for Public Land’s 2015 report indicated that that off‐leash areas are the fastest growing use of parkland nationwide, growing by 20% over the last five (5) years.
Our research report, entitled “North American Dog Off‐Leash Area Best Practices,” provided Seattle Parks a true overview of Seattle’s program as compared to other high density cities. In the final column below, note the number of off‐leash acres provided by these cities, as compared to Seattle’s 25 acres:
￼￼￼￼￼While Chicago, Minneapolis and Denver above seem to be in similar situations as Seattle, the industry trend shown above is clearly moving toward allowing more off‐leash access in order to control the spaces where dogs cannot be off‐leash because of incompatible populations/uses or natural habitats and restoration efforts. Off‐leash areas in medium‐high to high density cities include some of the most desired parkland in the country, such as Central Park, Boston Common, Lake Michigan beaches, and Golden Gate National Park, further underscoring the gap in approach between Seattle and the nation’s leaders.
Even in surrounding West Coast cities like Portland OR, Vancouver BC, and San Francisco CA, we find more progressive dog off‐leash policy. These cities provide, on average, 120 acres each of off‐leash land, using different approaches to recognize off‐leash as a fair use of parkland, and to respond to their citizens’ high demand. We have advocated strongly for a broadening of our program to move in line with other high density cities across the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, many of Seattle’s dog parks are facing large maintenance challenges and deteriorating infrastructure due to their age, lack of funding, and their placement in areas that are undesirable or inappropriate, such as under highways or on heavily eroding slopes. As Seattle has grown, the program has lagged behind demand in terms of acreage available for off‐leash exercise. A combination of all of the OLAs opened since 2001 fits easily inside one of our small‐medium size 1997 OLAs (Genesee), a reality that conflicts with the conventional wisdom regarding recommendations for dog:space ratios. In addition, location and park size has resulted in creating an equity gap between neighborhoods. For instance, all of Queen Anne is served by 0.1 acres tucked in secluded Lower Kinnear Park, down 150 stairs and without nearby parking, rendering it nearly unused. Similarly, both Ballard and Greenlake (each heavily populated by dog owners) each have only 1 acre on heavily eroding slopes with constant mud issues. Puddles and mud are not only difficult for the human users, but can be disease prone for the pups themselves. These examples are reflective of a lack of City commitment to allocate single use land to dogs in parks during this boom of population in Seattle, and a lack of strategic planning. We hope for a remedy to this situation in 2015’s Strategic Plan. It will be the first strategic planning done to address dog owners’ needs since 1997 when the first dog parks opened in Seattle.
As a part of this strategic planning, the Master Agreement between Seattle Parks and COLA will be rewritten. We are hopeful this will begin an era of off‐leash areas being fully adopted by Seattle Parks and Recreation as an integral recreation program, similar to the City’s recognition and support of skate parks, athletic fields, and children’s playgrounds. With a true service assessment of the Off‐Leash Program, we are confident that actual maintenance and development needs will dictate dedicated funding from the the general fund beyond the initial $100,000 per year now budgeted in the MP.
A properly funded future will present as a true partnership between Seattle Parks and Recreation and COLA, where Parks will adopt maintenance of the off‐leash areas and COLA will be allowed to invest financially and in terms of volunteer time in its mission to educate dog owners and build community in neighborhoods across the City.
– Ellen Escarcega, October 2015
Chair, Citizens for Off-Leash Areas
Unfortunately, despite Seattle’s love for dogs, the city’s off-leash acreage isn’t keeping up with its population growth. Over one-third of the current OLA system is in Warren G. Magnuson Park (not managed by COLA), and that OLA contains the city’s only water access, which is regularly above capacity with dog owners hoping to exercise and entertain their pups (see image right, Wonderlane Flickr Photo, 2010).
In contrast, only 2.3 acres of off-leash area have been added in the last 14 years and half of this land is found in a single inaccessible, underutilized OLA under I-5, further limiting many Seattle residents’ access to off-leash areas in our traffic laden city. The other five pocket parks do not address demand in their neighborhoods sufficiently, let alone provide reasonable options for the many other neighborhoods without a dog park.
This lack of accessible, off-leash recreation and exercise space is a serious problem for Seattle’s dog owners and non-owners alike. In the recent survey of dog owners that Parks conducted, over one quarter of respondents admitted to off-leash recreation outside of the designated fenced off-leash areas, with the actual number reasonably assumed to be higher. Survey respondents clearly indicated their reasoning as a desire seen in other researched cities: to walk to a neighborhood off-leash area sufficient in size to properly and safely exercise and socialize their canine companions. Widespread unofficial gatherings, while common, are currently illegal. Seattle Animal Shelter’s staffing increase has recently cracked down on enforcement, sparking many active conversations in neighborhood blogs about off-leash dogs illegally using playgrounds, parks, and athletic fields throughout the city, a direct reflection of the fact that there are not enough accessible legal areas to recreate with dogs.
Off-leash Areas Matter
Seattle residents love their dogs! Rated one of the most pet-friendly rental cities, Seattle residents are getting more and more canine companions while residing in housing without yards. This situation is untenable for Seattle, and has been remedied in other cities resulting in drastically reduced dog aggression – New York City’s Parks Commissioner cites 40,000 dog bites per year before they opened their off-leash program, and 4,000 the next year.
Seattle Animal Shelter reports we have 43,645 dogs licensed in Seattle, putting their estimate of total Seattle dogs above 153,000, using nationwide compliance averages from 20-30%. According to a recent survey of 4,000 dog owners, over seventy percent of these dogs are medium or large, the vast majority are highly active breeds, and over half are under five years old (nearly 89% under 10 years). Nationwide press has compared Seattleites’ love for dogs and the dog population and its 14 dog parks to our less than 100,000 children and our 150+ children’s playgrounds, not including school playgrounds. At least 1 in 4 households in Seattle own at least one dog (recent estimates put it at 35%), and recent research has indicated that over one sixth of the city already uses off-leash recreation (in its current compromised state). In Seattle Parks’ recent survey of nearly 4,000 Seattle dog owners, while two-thirds of dog owners prefer off-leash recreation, only four OLAs were in regular use in Seattle (Magnuson, Westcrest, Golden Gardens, Woodland). The number 1 reason non-OLA users have for not using dog parks is that they are not conveniently located, with number 2 too many unruly dogs. Our dog parks are overpopulated, too small, and too far apart. The need for more and better off-leash areas has never been more obvious and pressing than it is today.
More about COLA’s History
Twenty years ago, COLA was formed as a grassroots organization in response to a sudden increase in enforcement of the 1990s leash laws in a booming Seattle. In a 1995 march around Greenlake, citizens organized to demand legal space for dogs to run and socialize off-leash and the resulting petition began our work as a registered non-profit organization. Formally founded in November of 1996 as an all-volunteer 501c3 organization, COLA worked with the Seattle City Council to pass the 1997 ordinance which established Seattle’s first eight off-leash areas. The following year, COLA signed a Master Agreement with Seattle Parks and Recreation to work in close partnership to maintain Seattle’s off-leash areas, now seven in total after closing Volunteer Park’s OLA, and provide educational opportunities for dog owners.
The remaining seven OLAs provided Seattle 19 acres of off-leash space, nearly half of which was in Warren G. Magnuson Park, which was so large it formed a separate 501c3 in 2000 to manage itself. In 2001, Dr. Jose Rizal was opened adding four more acres of much needed space to Beacon Hill. However, since then, though COLA has advocated for and supported the creation of six more off-leash areas, together they total only 2.3 acres, 1.3 acres of which is in one extremely poorly maintained, inaccessible, underutilized area with design difficulties under I-5. Each OLA required an average of nearly two and half years of COLA volunteer activism to achieve permanency.
Off-Leash Areas in Seattle
COLA has been a major part of the maintenance and management of Seattle’s dog parks. COLA currently manages 13 of Seattle’s 14 Off-Leash Areas which provide 16 acres of off-leash space (25 in total including Magnuson).
Seattle’s current off-leash areas are vastly different in terms of size and proportion of the system, as shown right where all the blue shades are 1997 parks and the others were post 1997. They are as follows:
COLA Steward Program
COLA’s steward program has been run for years with one volunteer per OLA towards the goal of long term management continuity. Though this has demonstrated some success, with several of our stewards on board for over a decade, in 2014 and 2015, our steward coordinator Lee Goldman has actively expanded our stewarding program at each OLA to create redundancy should a volunteer leave. Because the job requires more than one skillset often not found in one person, bringing additional stewards on board for the same park has proved highly advantageous. Some stewards are primarily focused on maintenance of the land, preventing water-borne diseases such as giardia in pups, while others are interested in community building and education. It takes a village to run a dog park, and toward that end we are growing our stewards into teams!
The job description of a traditional Steward is as follows:
Beyond the steward program that creates the backbone of OLA management, COLA maintains a corps of volunteers that assist in maintaining its parks across Seattle. In 2014 COLA volunteers logged 7,305 work hours across the 13 off leash areas and the activities of the all-volunteer COLA board. Over just one year, we facilitated over 620 volunteers, including those who participated in COLA sponsored work parties at OLAS. Some stewards have regular schedules for work parties, while others have them on an as-needed basis. Below is the breakdown of recorded hours citywide, though some OLAs have kept more accurate records than others:
COLA provides a variety of non-power tools and supplies for each OLA, as well as an annual tools budget for replacements when they inevitably wear out due to heavy use. Stewards put these tools to good use on a regular basis, and supplement with borrowed tools from Seattle Parks and Recreation during work parties. COLA stewards have worked with their crew chiefs on a case-by-case basis to obtain necessary surfacing materials. In the event ground cover material cannot be provided by Parks, COLA stewards coordinate the purchase and delivery of ground cover materials from their COLA annual OLA budget. In the last two years alone, COLA has spent over $8000 of our donations to maintain the Park’s surfaces.
Beyond physical park maintenance, COLA provides community resources for its stewards, members, and individual community members to communicate and facilitate discussion. COLA has a website with active discussion forums for everything ranging from ideas for future OLA locations to reporting problems and suggestions for current locations. These bulletin boards are monitored by COLA members and play an important role in enabling communication between OLA users, stewards, and board members. This communication is further underscored by quarterly COLA/Parks meetings where COLA leaders and representatives from Seattle Parks and Recreation meet to discuss clarifications, additions, or amendments to the Off-Leash Areas Agreement between the City of Seattle and COLA. These meetings, are opportunities to meet with crew chiefs, Seattle Animal Control, and other Seattle Parks staff members to provide the opportunity to collaborate and solve problems.
Ellen Escarcega is computer consultant, primarily contracting these days with King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks on database software which manages millions of dollars of projects and contracts. Her specialties are database design, user interface, business intelligence metrics, and graphic/web design. Over the past twenty-three years, seventeen of which have been in Seattle as the owner of her own business, Meserow Consulting, she has built software for government, non-profits, education, publishing, and small businesses. She has managed grants totalling over a million dollars, and budgets ranging from two thousand to two million dollars. As a lifetime dog owner and nearly four-year volunteer steward of Genesee Off-Leash Area, Ellen has seen from all angles the needs and desires of Seattle dog owners, as well as volunteers seeking to improve the lives of Seattle dogs and their people. She is passionate about managing COLA’s non-profit efforts toward effective goals on that front. She has served as Chair of COLA since 2014.
Nicole Eckerman is currently the Foundation Specialist for Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. Cole earned a Master of Science in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy from Bay Path College where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, and received her BA from The Evergreen State College. Heralding from Portland, OR, Cole has worked as a professional fundraiser for 10 years. She moved to Seattle in 2006 to work on the Yes on 1-937 campaign, directing the grassroots fundraising efforts for the initiative. Cole loves working as a fundraiser, because she sees cultivating donations as a way to connect people with issues they care about. She specialized in individual gift fundraising, new media fundraising, and donor cultivation. When she isn’t changing the world one donation at a time, Cole can be found in and around her home in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood, which she shares with her husband Nathan, and their 6-year-old hound dog, Winchester. She spends her free time going to dog parks, wine tasting, and hiking around Washington’s different viticulture regions. She has served at Vice-Chair since 2015.
Michael Loebe, MSA is an accountant with 28 years of experience currently working in the Finance department of Seattle Hebrew Academy. Has worked in a variety of industries including broadcasting with 10 years working for KIRO and KING combined. He established and ran his own firm for 7 years. Mike specializes in new business set up and organization. He engages in philanthropic activities at many levels by donating of money and time to a variety of causes and organizations. He has served as Treasurer of COLA since 2012.
Highlights of Our Programs in Education
COLA has begun the transition to an education and community building organization this year, running several high level pilots toward education, community building, and sustainability. A few highlights of these programs include:
Events and Community Building
COLA has always had an active event program which includes Dog-O-Ween and Fremont Fair Dog Parade staples, which have been a cornerstone of our educational, community building, and fundraising efforts. In June of 2015, a grant-funded investigation into runoff problems at Westcrest OLA helped spark Westcrest Doggiefest which helped raise over $2,300 in donations as well as generate tremendous positive sentiment toward COLA. Finally, in 2015 COLA had booths at many Seattle events, distributing information about our organization and raising awareness for off leash areas, the strategic planning effort, upcoming survey, and more. These booths included the Seattle Pet Expo, West Seattle Summerfest, and the Emerald City Pet Rescue Event. In coming years COLA intends to organize smaller, higher impact events in 2016 starting with a dog-themed wine tasting event and a Nepalese dog friendship celebration.
An active grant investigation of over 70 grants that COLA’s mission qualifies for is underway to help fund our organization’s progression into a professional, self-sustaining non-profit organization. Grants have proved to be a valuable source of funding both in the past and as COLA moves forward with its expanded mission. We have already received the King County Rainwise and PetSafe grants, and are actively working toward many more this year and next, including Department of Neighborhoods Matching Grants.
COLA’s Donor Base
Given its status as a community driven non-profit organization, COLA’s major funding source in 2014 and 2015 has been contributions from concerned individuals, businesses, and community organizations. For most of COLA’s history, the primary means of fundraising was through memberships and member fees. $20-$50 memberships were designed to help fund COLA’s dog park maintenance activities as well as provide a network of concerned dog owners, park users, and Seattle citizens who wanted to make a difference.
While this was effective for many years to help keep COLA running, the overall goal of transitioning COLA to a professional non-profit organization has required new and innovative sources of fundraising. Recently, COLA has moved from its older membership model to a broader, donation based style of philanthropy. In addition to the tremendous financial benefit of raising over $10,000 in donations to run its programs and activities, this new outreach push has enabled COLA to rapidly grow its communication network. We have reached out to over 3,000 of Seattleites via email and thousands more over social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Since 2014 COLA has more than tripled its volunteer roster and gained substantial numbers of individual donors and contributors, both of which continue to grow. A new strategic plan is underway now aimed at stewarding our existing donors, creating a corporate giving strategy, and more.
COLA’s membership and donation income this year has exceeded expectations, including a nearly $6000 day for Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG day on May 5th, 2015:
Throughout our history, Seattle Parks and Recreation has operated under severe budget restrictions, and as stated above has had no dedicated funding for Seattle off-leash areas. As an unfunded mandate, supplies and services provided by Parks for the off-leash areas were borrowed from other budgets and were aimed toward basic safety only. COLA provided funding where Parks could not. As a result, over the past eighteen years, COLA has paid for substantial improvements to off-leash areas that would otherwise not be funded, including fencing, ground cover, benches, tools, lights, bags, and more.
As an all-volunteer organization funded exclusively by donations, COLA volunteers have worked tirelessly to be sure Seattle’s more than 150,000 pups and their owners play in dry, fenced, safe environments. In 2014 and 2015, COLA dedicated the largest part of its funding to the maintenance and care of Seattle’s off-leash areas. Almost all of these OLA resources are spent on basics such as gravel ground cover, tools, scoop bags, and fencing. Because the original agreement between COLA and the City of Seattle included vague assignments of maintenance and care duties, COLA has shouldered a major part of the burden for keeping the parks up to date to the best of its ability. In recent months, as part of a continued commitment to establishing itself as a premier non profit organization for dogs and dog owners and due to the major commitment to a new master plan, COLA has increased its administrative spending. This shift in expenditures does not represent any change in COLA’s commitment to continuing to provide the best quality off-leash areas it can but rather a redoubling of the effort and resources to become a professional organization with the capabilities to expand beyond the reach of the all volunteer team COLA has maintained in the past.
In addition, beginning in June 2015, COLA has begun hiring part time administrative help managing our ever increasing volunteer base, and attending as many pet events as possible to get the word out during this strategic planning effort. This new program has added over $3000 to our spending this year, and we are hopeful that it is the beginning of our transition to a professional non-profit which can exist for decades to come. Thus far, the program has paid back its own cost significantly in fundraising successes.
Future spending for COLA will include efforts to administer a dog owner education and community building effort in Seattle. These important components of the COLA mission have always taken a backseat due to the fact that maintenance of OLAs has never been a budgeted item for SPD. Covering basic maintenance needs,, e.g. surface materials, supplies, seating, fencing, and tools, has severely limited COLA’s ability to address important community needs. We intend to change this in 2016 and beyond.
In order for COLA to grow beyond an organization that does more than just provide gravel for dog parks, we are redefining our overall approach to fundraising. COLA’s goal is to become a professional non-profit that acts as the go-to education, support, and community building group for Seattle and the Puget Sound region. To that end, COLA has worked to develop a comprehensive fundraising and philanthropy program built around a variety of income sources including strengthening relationships with existing donors, expanding the annual fund program, establishing a major giving program, cultivating corporate partnerships, and developing in-kind contribution opportunities for both individuals and businesses.
We are developing a program to revolutionize our former membership fundraising approach, including the following highlights of our approach:
A) Individual Giving is at COLA’s core. As Citizens for Off- Leash Areas, we need our citizens to be supporting our work. There are four key steps to be taken to grow and solidify our existing individual gift program.
B) Corporate Partner Program. Seattle is home to a large number of successful, dog-friendly businesses. It is important that we offer the members of our business community to opportunity to support the dogs and the city that they love in way that makes sense for their bottom line. By maximizing our strategic connection with corporate partners, COLA can also capitalize on free publicity as it is in a business’s best interest to be overt about their philanthropic support of their community. Because business needs are as diverse as the dogs they welcome into their offices, we need to have a multifaceted approach for corporate philanthropy.
COLA Infrastructure and Communications
As a part our growth beyond an all volunteer organization, COLA added its first paid staff position in June of 2015 in order to accommodate a growing workload from the master planning process and and to help facilitate farther reaching community impacts in the future. We’ve fully re-created our technical infrastructure, including:
Vision for the Future
COLA in the next decade will be the non-profit for dog owners in Seattle. There are hundreds of non-profit organizations and agencies in Seattle, such as the Seattle Animal Shelter, creating new dog owners but none that serve the direct needs of the new urban dog owner, let alone an adopter of a reactive or leash-aggressive dog. The science over the last twenty years has established that dogs can be aggressive genetically, but it is far more likely that aggression and behavioral issues arise from lack of exercise and socialization. COLA is in a unique position to help these new dog owners, and facilitate non-profit education and recreation programs which will improve our city’s urban livestock, for all citizens’ benefit.
Off-leash areas are functionally comparable to community centers, athletic fields, and children’s playgrounds, if you separate the effects of their existence from the reason they were created. It’s hard to imagine if you have never joined a dog park public commons, but much like a community center, they act as neighborhood living rooms for those who participate. Neighbors meet, exchange local news and information, trade services, look after their elderly or sick, provide space for events and volunteering, learn about others with different backgrounds, and meet newcomers to the area – all while exercising and socializing their dogs, and reducing crime and decline in the areas where they are placed.
And like a children’s playground, dog parks bring together parents of similar ages, ostensibly to entertain/enrich their dogs’ lives, but end up part of a community which shares information and forms relationships. Trust for Public Land’s Director of the Center for City Park Excellence says, “There was a playground movement 100 years ago. In the last 15 to 20 years, it’s these off-leash dog areas. There’s a tremendous upsurge in demand and love for them. It’s a playground for people without kids.”
Toward this goal, COLA will continue into our third decade to work tirelessly toward increasing the quality and availability of open spaces for Seattle’s dogs, dog owners, and non-owners, though in a much more strategic way after the completion of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s People, Dogs and Parks Strategic Plan. It is our hope that this planning will continue into a formal master plan in coming years, designating a true implementation plan toward our mission: A Dog Park for Every Neighborhood, including swimming beaches and off-leash trails where appropriate. In addition, we are recommending to Seattle Parks and Recreation that in addition to the capital improvements authorized by the MPD funds, a true basic service assessment is done for the first time on the off-leash program to provide maintenance funding for the following priorities, in this order:
Meanwhile, COLA intends to grow our mission while staying true to our original mission of fostering a real sense of community within each dog park, while providing owner education and better communication/messaging citywide.
Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was formed to obtain and maintain off-leash dog exercise areas in Seattle. In June 1996 COLA entered into a formal agreement with the City of Seattle to steward Seattle’s off-leash areas. In September 1997, the Seattle City Council voted 9-0 to establish permanent off-leash dog areas, giving COLA the responsibility of stewarding the sites for the Department of Parks and Recreation. This vote was the result of over six years of organizing, planning, and public process in which many hundreds of Seattle citizens attended dozens of meetings and thousands more wrote, faxed, and telephoned the City Council.
The Need for Off-Leash Areas
In the early 1990s, several local citizens identified the need for several sites in Seattle where people could recreate with their off-leash dogs. These tax-paying citizens saw that many of the Seattle Parks have dedicates areas to soccer fields, baseball fields, and other recreational uses. They, and many others, believed that supervised off-leash activity within designated areas was also valid use of public space.
During the summer of 1994, complaints about Animal Control officers – who patrolled in pairs and frequently used the Seattle Police Department for back-up – became a source of concern for the Seattle City Council. Council member Jan Drago stepped forward and began a public process of community involvement that would culminate in the creation of the off-leash areas.
Identifying Potential Sites
The first meeting to determine if there was widespread interest in creating permanent off-leash dog areas was held on October 18 1994. Over 400 Seattleites attended the meeting and divided into 6 subgroups (based on where they lived) to identify potential sites around the city. Over the next six months, these subgroups met and submitted proposals for permanent off-leash areas to Jan Dragos office. The proposals were then sent to a city-wide advisory group consisting of City department staff, canine behavior specialists, members of several local Friends Of groups (i.e. Friends of Discovery and Magnuson Parks), and off-leash advocates. The review group selected the top 38 potential sites based on a variety of criteria, and in the Spring of 1995, City Council staff visited and evaluated these potential off-leash areas along with staff from Parks Department, Seattle Police Department, and several of the city utilities.
A series of public workshops, co-sponsored by City Council, Parks Department and Animal Control was held to discuss the proposals. Over 500 people attended the workshops and nearly 2,000 comment forms and letters were sent to the City Council. After a three and a half hour public meeting held at the Seattle Center, and several heavily-attended hearings at City Council chambers, a 12-month off-leash pilot program began for seven sites geographically distributed throughout the city. The pilot sites were officially opened on June 15, 1996.
How COLA Was Formed
During the evaluation period, several citizens dedicated to creating off-leash areas believed that dog owners needed an organization to work with the City and maintain long-term stability for the off-leash program. Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) was formed in February 1995 by tax-paying citizens seeking permanent off-leash recreational access in some of Seattles nearly 400 parks.
For nearly 20 years, COLA has been the point of contact for public officials, the media, other cities, community groups, dog owners and the population at large on off-leash and other dog-related issues.
CITIZENS FOR OFF-LEASH AREAS (COLA)
The following Bylaws shall be subject to, and governed by, the Non-Profit Corporation Act of Washington and the Articles of Incorporation of Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA). In the event of a direct conflict between the herein contained provisions of these Bylaws and the mandatory provisions of the Non-Profit Corporation Act of Washington, said Non-Profit Corporation Act shall be the prevailing controlling law. In the event of a direct conflict between the provisions of these Bylaws and the articles of Incorporation of Corporation, it shall then be these Bylaws which shall be controlling.
ARTICLE I — NAME AND PURPOSE
Section 1 — Name : The legal name of the organization shall be Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA), and shall herein be referred to as the “Corporation.” It shall be a non-profit 501c3 organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Washington. At no time and in no event shall the Corporation participate in any activities which have not been permitted to be carried out by a Corporation exempt under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Section 2 — Purpose : Citizens for Off-Leash Areas is organized exclusively for charitable, education and community building purposes, including the following: (does this differ from art of incorp?)
To work with City Officials, neighborhood groups, and others to establish, maintain, and oversee off-leash recreational areas for dogs and their owners within the City of Seattle;
To provide educational and community services which promote the philosophy of safe, healthy, humane and enjoyable interaction among the community, dog owners and their dogs; and
To provide a structure through which individuals may volunteer their time and resources for the attainment of these goals.
ARTICLE II — MEMBERSHIP
Section 1 — Membership: Membership in the Corporation shall consist of the Board of Directors.
ARTICLE III — OFFICES
Section 1 — Offices: The principal office of the Corporation shall be located at such location as the Board of Directors may determine.
ARTICLE IV — BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Section 1 — Board role, size, and compensation: The Corporation shall be governed by a Board of Directors (the “Board”), which shall have all the rights, powers, privileges and limitation of liability of directors of a non-profit corporation organized under the Non-Profit Corporation Act of Washington. The Board is responsible for overall policy and direction of the association, and delegates responsibility of day-to-day operations to the staff and committees. The Board shall have up to eleven (11), but not fewer than six (6) members. The number of members may be increased beyond eleven (11) or decreased to less than six (6) members by the affirmative vote of a two-thirds (2/3) majority of the then serving Board. The Board receives no compensation other than reasonable expenses. Nothing in these Bylaws shall be construed to preclude any Board member from serving the Corporation in any other capacity and receiving compensation for services rendered.
Section 2 — Terms: All Board members shall serve two-year terms, but are eligible for re-election for up to five consecutive terms. In addition to the regular membership of the Board, the Board may elect Ex-Officio Board Members, who shall not have voting power, shall not count as one of the regular Board members, and shall not be eligible for office.
Section 3 — Meetings and notice: The Board shall meet at least quarterly, at an agreed upon time and place. An official Board meeting requires that each Board member have written notice at least two weeks in advance.
Section 4 — Board elections: During the last quarter of each fiscal year of the Corporation, the Board of directors shall elect Directors to replace those whose terms will expire at the end of the fiscal year. Election shall take place during a regular meeting of the directors, called in accordance with the provisions of these bylaws.
Section 5 — Election procedures: New directors shall be elected by a majority of directors present at such a meeting, provided there is a quorum present. Directors so elected shall serve a term beginning on the first day of the next fiscal year.
Section 6 — Quorum: A quorum must be attended by at least 50 percent of Board members for business transactions to take place and motions to pass.
Section 7 — Officers and Duties: There shall be four officers of the Board, consisting of a chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer. Their duties are as follows:
The chair shall convene regularly scheduled Board meetings, shall preside or arrange for other members of the Executive Committee to preside at each meeting in the following order: vice-chair, secretary, treasurer.
The vice-chair shall chair committees on special subjects as designated by the Board.
The secretary shall be responsible for keeping records of Board actions, including overseeing the taking of minutes at all Board meetings, sending out meeting announcements, distributing copies of minutes and the agenda to each Board member, and assuring that corporate records are maintained.
The treasurer shall make a report at each Board meeting. The treasurer shall chair the finance committee, assist in the preparation of the budget, help develop fundraising plans, and make financial information available to Board members and the public.
Section 8 — Vacancies: When a vacancy on the Board exists mid-term, the secretary must receive nominations for new members from present Board members two weeks in advance of a Board meeting. These nominations shall be sent out to Board members with the regular Board meeting announcement, to be voted upon at the next Board meeting. These vacancies will be filled only to the end of the particular Board member’s term.
Section 9 — Resignation, termination, and absences: Resignation from the Board must be in writing and received by the secretary. A Board member may be terminated from the Board due to excess absences or for other reasons by a three-fourths vote of the remaining directors.
Section 10 — Special meetings: Special meetings of the Board shall be called upon the request of the chair, or one-third of the Board. Notices of special meetings shall be sent out by the secretary to each Board member at least two weeks in advance.
ARTICLE V — COMMITTEES
Section 1 — Executive Committee: The four officers serve as the members of the Executive Committee. Except for the power to amend the articles of incorporation and bylaws, the Executive Committee shall have all the powers and authority of the Board of directors in the intervals between meetings of the Board of directors, and is subject to the direction and control of the full Board.
Section 2 — Finance Committee: The treasurer is the chair of the Finance Committee, which includes two other Board members. The Finance Committee is responsible for developing and reviewing fiscal procedures and annual budget with staff and other Board members. The Board must approve the budget and all expenditures must be within budget. Any major change in the budget must be approved by the Board or the Executive Committee. The fiscal year shall be the calendar year. Annual reports are required to be submitted to the Board showing income, expenditures, and pending income. The financial records of the organization are public information and shall be made available to Board members and the public.
Section 3 — Committee formation: The Board may create additional committees as needed. The Board Chair appoints all committee chairs.
ARTICLE VI — DIRECTOR AND STAFF
Section 1 — Executive Director: The executive director is hired by the Board. The executive director has day-to-day responsibilities for the organization, including carrying out the organization’s goals and policies. The executive director will attend all Board meetings, report on the progress of the organization, answer questions of the Board members and carry out the duties described in the job description. The Board can designate other duties as necessary. In the absence of a paid director, Chair should act as executive director.
ARTICLE VII – DEDICATION OF ASSETS
Section 1 — Assets: The properties and assets of the Corporation are irrevocably dedicated to and for non-profit purposes only. On liquidation or dissolution, all remaining properties and assets of the Corporation shall be distributed and paid over to an organization dedicated to non-profit purposes which has established its tax-exempt status pursuant to Section 501(c) of the Code.
ARTICLE VIII — AMENDMENTS
Section 1 — Amendments: These bylaws may be amended when necessary by two-thirds majority of the Board of directors. Proposed amendments must be submitted to the secretary to be sent out with regular Board announcements.
These bylaws were approved at a meeting of the Board of directors by a unanimous vote on November 18, 2015.
AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY OF SEATTLE
AND CITIZENS FOR OFF-LEASH AREAS
ON THE OFF-LEASH AREAS PROGRAM
Whereas, the Off-Leash Areas Program for 1998-2000 consists of several sites geographically dispersed throughout the city where dogs are allowed off-leash; and
Whereas, after completion and evaluation of a fifteen-month pilot program, the City Council in September 1997 approved a program of ten sites, a mix of pilot, interim, permanent and to-be-identified sites; and
Whereas, six of the sites in operation at the date of the signing of this agreement are located within City parks, and the seventh is Seattle Public Utilities property; and
Whereas, the activity at each location will occur within a delineated, properly signed, and in most cases fenced area where dogs will be allowed off-leash to run, play, exercise, train and socialize with their owners/handlers and with other dogs; and
Whereas, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has been designated as the organization that shall be responsible for management of the off-leash sites with the coordination and support of the Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA); Now, therefore,
The manager of park properties is the DPR, and the steward of the off-leash areas (OLAs) is COLA. The purpose of this agreement is to outline the duties of DPR and COLA for the operation of the program. This agreement lays out the responsibilities COLA will carry out in support of the program, describes the limits of COLA’s responsibilities, and clarifies the roles of Animal Control and DPR staff.
III. Synopsis of the Status of Each Site
Following is a synopsis of the status of each site at the date of the signing of this agreement. Please see the attached maps. Note: Maps are included here to approximate the off-leash area sites, and may not reflect current configurations. Boundaries may change by agreement between DPR and COLA, or by action of DPR in accordance with the provisions of Ordinance 118274 and Resolution 29628.
UPPER GOLDEN GARDENS: Permanent. Please see the attached map.
MAGNUSON: Interim, pending adoption of a Use Plan for the combined Sand Point/Magnuson property. The Council’s intent is to include a permanent off-leash site within the park. Please see the attached map.
WOODLAND PARK: The newly opened (March 1998) pilot site will operate as a pilot site for 18 months, during which time DPR will monitor and evaluate its success and at the end of which DPR will make recommendations to the City Council on its future. Please see the attached map.
VOLUNTEER: Temporary. The Department, in response to Council Resolution 29628, has identified several alternate properties on or near Capitol Hill and forwarded the list to the City Council. Please see the attached map.
GENESEE: Permanent. This off-leash site reopened in October 1999 after completion of a landfill capping project. Please see the attached map.
WESTCREST: Permanent. The City Council asked in Resolution 29628 that DPR complete an environmental checklist on the entire park. That work is underway at the date of the signing of this agreement. Please see the attached maps (2).
BLUE DOG POND: Permanent. Please see the attached map.
NORTHACRES: Pilot. DPR was unable to move forward with improvements to this site due to 1998 budget limitations, and has funding for 1999 and 2000 to do so. Please see the attached map.
BEACON HILL (East Duwamish Greenbelt, Jefferson Reservoir or City Light ROW #2): Pilot. DPR was unable to move forward with improvements to the site to be selected from among these three due to 1998 budget limitations, and has funding for 1999 and 2000 to do so. Please see the attached maps (3).
CITY LIGHT ROW #3: Pilot. DPR was unable to move forward with improvements to this site due to 1998 budget limitations, and has funding for 1999 and 2000 to do so. Please see the attached map.
IV. Effective Date
This agreement will be in effect upon signature by the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, the Director of the Executive Services Department, and the Chair of the Citizens for Off-Leash Areas Board of Directors. It shall not expire but may be amended and revised as necessary.
V. COLA Volunteer Support Agreements
COLA volunteers are not prohibited from engaging in general maintenance activities at off-leash sites before the agreement is signed by all parties, once they have registered with DPR and there is agreement between DPR crew chiefs and COLA lead site stewards on work programs.
VI. Program Components
The off-leash areas program has as integral components the following:
Maintenance: DPR staff will perform maintenance and restoration of the sites as they deem possible within the level of funding received for that purpose. COLA will be consulted and its input given weight when considering what discretionary maintenance and restoration shall be performed. In addition, where adequate maintenance of the sites is not deemed possible by DPR, DPR will notify COLA so that COLA is given an opportunity to supplement DPR resources for maintenance of off-leash areas.
Enforcement: Animal Control will enforce leash, scoop and license laws in parks.
Rules: DPR will post rules on a kiosk at each site stating at a minimum:
–Owners are liable for any damage or injury inflicted by their dogs.
–Dog owners must comply with all park rules and relevant parking requirements.
–Dogs must be properly licensed.
–Aggressive behavior, biting, fighting or excessive barking is not allowed.
–Dogs must be leashed prior to entering, and upon leaving, the off-leash site.
–Owners must have a visible leash at all times.
–Owners must clean up and properly dispose of feces left by their dogs.
–Female dogs in heat are not allowed.
–Dog owners or handlers must be in attendance with dogs at all times.
Site Features: Each site will be clearly designated by fencing or, in some cases, natural barriers and signage that indicates the boundaries of the off-leash area. If new configuration requires that current space is reduced, DPR will make every effort to compensate for that reduction by adding reasonably comparable footage nearby. DPR will consult with COLA representatives on site design before any more site designs are implemented. DPR will provide each site with a bulletin board and kiosk where notices can be posted. Drainage solutions and surfacing alternatives will be sought.
Pilot Site Monitoring: For each pilot site, DPR will carry out a monitoring and evaluation program to measure its success, and DPR will make recommendations after 18 months to the City Council on its future. DPR will share the results of any monitoring and evaluation with COLA before presenting them to the City Council.
Site-Specific Agreements: A DPR representative and a COLA representative will, by August 31, 1999, sign an agreement for each off-leash site, substantially conforming to previous site-specific agreements.
Site Closure: The DPR Superintendent is authorized to close sites, temporarily or permanently, or modify the boundaries within reasonable limits in accordance with Ordinance 118724. Please refer to Attachment 1, Ordinance 118724, for details. In the event of a permanent closure of any off-leash site, COLA may endeavor to find a reasonably comparable alternative site, including non-DPR-owned property, as close as possible to the already established site to present to the City Council for approval.
New Sites: Resolution 29628 directs COLA to attempt to locate new non-park off-leash sites.
Notification of Meetings: COLA has been designated by the City as steward of the program. The City also recognizes that notification to the public regarding off-leash activities is very important. DPR and Animal Control shall keep COLA informed of significant problems and any public complaints within a reasonable time of receipt, and shall keep COLA informed of potential changes or closures so that COLA may have an opportunity to correct the problem, assist with intervention, or provide input before such decisions are made.
Administration of Agreement: COLA and DPR will meet on a regular basis but at least quarterly to discuss off-leash areas managed by DPR. Such meetings shall be open to the public. One purpose of these meetings is to discuss clarifications, additions or amendments to this agreement. City staff from DPR and Animal Control shall provide oversight required to carry out duties under this agreement, and shall monitor and administer it. Animal Control staff shall provide oversight of COLA volunteers in regard to compliance with City rules and ordinances relating to dogs. Animal Control will keep COLA informed regarding enforcement issues they encounter.
Operations. DPR has primary responsibility for maintenance of all off-leash areas. DPR staff will ensure that maintenance and improvements initiated and carried out by COLA volunteers are done according to DPR specifications as provided to COLA. DPR staff will inform COLA or individual site stewards of issues relating to the maintenance or operation of off-leash areas, and may request COLA’s help in resolving them. DPR staff will inform COLA of upcoming special events that may have an impact on the operation of an off-leash area. If such events result in the temporary closure of an off-leash area, DPR will contact Animal Control and COLA to provide adequate notice to site users. DPR will provide adequate notice of closures and will post notices on kiosks. Unless otherwise agreed, or unless closure is for more than a weekend, adequate notice is one week in advance unless the closure is of an emergency nature. Animal Control and DPR staff will ensure that all responsibilities and duties under this agreement are carried out according to City policies, rules and ordinances, and will provide COLA with copies of all such off-leash areas policies, rules and ordinances.
COLA will solicit volunteers to carry out the responsibilities under this agreement. For this purpose, COLA will assign a single person or group to carry out duties at each off-leash site. Each person or group will provide DPR and Animal Control with a number where the City can reach, or leave a message for, the designated representative. The designated representative will respond to City inquiries within a reasonable time. DPR and Animal Control shall respond to COLA and its site stewards’ inquiries within a reasonable time.
COLA will provide a telephone number visibly on the kiosk at each off-leash site which park users may call if they have questions or concerns about the off-leash areas program.
COLA will select a lead site steward to be the principal contact for each off-leash site. The lead site steward will be responsible for mobilizing volunteers, as needed, to carry out the duties outlined in “Duties and Responsibilities of Volunteer Groups.” Each designated lead site steward will provide his/her name and telephone number to Animal Control and DPR maintenance staff. If there is a change in the lead site steward, COLA will notify DPR staff by telephone, written correspondence or another mutually agreed-upon method.
Off-Leash Area Budget: DPR will provide COLA with a copy of any proposed DPR budget or fiscal year budget sufficiently in advance of the adoption or approval of the budget by DPR or the City such that COLA may respond thereto.
Education, Training and Information. COLA volunteers may provide, with prior approval from DPR, regularly scheduled or special education and training classes for dogs and their owners. Approval shall not be unreasonably withheld and if not approved, a reason shall be provided for denial. COLA will notify DPR and Animal Control of these sessions at least two weeks before each event. COLA may invite Animal Control staff, Animal Control Commission members, or other animal experts to participate in the sessions. Topics may include responsible dog ownership, compliance with dog-related ordinances, dog obedience and behavior classes, pet licensing opportunities, pet health care and other issues reasonably related to off-leash dog areas or dogs and their owners. COLA will post notices of these sessions on off-leash area kiosks, other park information boards with DPR approval, and non-park sites as deemed appropriate. Notices will contain information about the time, date and location of each session.
COLA volunteers may provide the public with written materials regarding off-leash areas and other information of interest to dog owners without prior notification of DPR or Animal Control staff.
General Maintenance (Cleanup) of Off-Leash Areas. COLA volunteers will provide for general cleanup and maintenance activities relating to the implementation and operation of off-leash sites. DPR will provide each site with an adequate number of kiosks and bulletin boards, appropriate numbers of garbage cans (at least two), garbage bags, bag dispensers and bags for cleaning up dog feces and reasonable maintenance of grounds. DPR will be responsible for trash removal from off-leash areas.
Off-Leash Site Improvements. COLA may help with improvements to an off-leash area. DPR and COLA may work together on such improvements. All improvements must be to DPR specifications, which shall be provided to COLA. Improvements may include:
Installation of lighting, after a public process and approval by DPR;
Installation or maintenance of fencing and gates;
Installation or maintenance of signs;
Trimming of weeds or other undesirable vegetation;
Maintenance of paths or trails;
Rehabilitation of lands, turf and vegetation; and
Adding park furniture or other amenities mutually agreed upon by DPR and COLA volunteers.
DPR will not unreasonably withhold consent for improvements done at COLA expense, and will provide a written reason for denial of permission if it opposes COLA’s proposed improvements.
Kiosk Maintenance: COLA volunteers will maintain the postings on the kiosk(s) installed near each off-leash site. Maintenance may include ensuring that rules, names of contacts and other information are posted, and cleaning to ensure kiosks are presentable. If DPR wishes the kiosks to be maintained in a certain form or manner, it will provide the necessary materials and other required equipment.
Monitoring Off-Leash Areas: COLA’s duties include performing monitoring activities that may include:
Inspecting off-leash sites to identify and report to DPR maintenance staff and the lead site steward any damage to fencing, signs or other fixtures that may impair operations;
Notifying DPR maintenance staff of hazardous materials, debris or conditions in or around the site.
Fundraising. COLA volunteers may engage in private fundraising efforts for the purpose of making improvements to off-leash areas or carrying out other duties outlined in this agreement.
Animal Control Responsibility for Enforcing Animal Control Ordinances and Rules:
Animal Control and, from time to time, Seattle Police Department staff will be solely responsible for enforcing City ordinances, regulations and policies relating to animals at off-leash sites. In no circumstance will COLA or its volunteers act as agents of the City.
COLA volunteers may inform off-leash site users of the site rules, may refer users to handouts or information on kiosks, and may sponsor workshops on site rules.
Animal Control will provide COLA with a name and telephone number for citizens to use to report dog-related incidents and other information necessary to ensure proper operation of the site.
DPR staff may report violations to Animal Control.
Animal Control Officers may distribute COLA literature.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have executed this agreement by having their respective representatives affix their signatures in the spaces below:
Kenneth R. Bounds, Superintendent Date
Department of Parks and Recreation
Dwight Dively, Director Date
Executive Services Department
Dan Klusman, Chair, Board of Directors Date
Citizens for Off-Leash Areas
Entered at DPR 9/30/98
3/1/00–edition with site descriptions separate