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POLL: Are Off-Leash Dog Parks Working?

Officials have received more than 36 complaints and 46 dog owners were ticketed or warned since 2010. Several have also offered praised for the program and asked for off-leash hours to be increased. What's your take on it?

It has been roughly a year since off-leash dog hours at Arlington parks have gone into effect. 

Since then, Director Joe Connelly has received more than 36 complaints from the public regarding the program, according to data obtained by Arlington Patch. 

"In October, when it first started, we had 20 to 30 comments or concerns," Connelly said at a recent bylaw review meeting. "That really trickled down to maybe a handful of them a month over the last few months. But we said, really from the start, that we weren't going to make any changes until one year."

Recreation officials are now reviewing the bylaw and its regulations, trying to figure out what has worked and what hasn't.

Between Feb. 16, 2010 and Oct. 18, 2011, 46 dog owners have been ticketed or warned for failure to restrain pets at Arlington parks. The park with the highest number of offenses is , where 10 people were ticketed or warned in 2010 and six in 2011.

In October, nearly 20 residents called or wrote Connelly with support for the program. Some even suggested adding extending off-leash dog park hours.

According to Connelly, adding afternoon hours has suggested by residents numerous times, though that would require a bylaw change that would need to be approved by town meeting.

Connelly has estimated fix top issues have come up from residents:

  1. Menotomy Rocks Park: Off-leash dogs in woods and at non off-leash hours.
  2. : Limiting the number of dogs and identifying different locations for the program.
  3. : Use of baseball field by off-leash dogs.
  4. Review of hours limited at Robbins Farm in the morning (7:30-8:30 a.m.)
  5. Increased signage at parks.

As officials review the town's off-leash dog park hours, we ask you: How is the town's one-year-old bylaw working? Should there be more flexible hours? Should there be more enforcement? 

Please answer our poll. And if you have more comments, please feel free to leave them in the box below.

somebody November 09, 2011 at 01:37 PM
This poll isn't worded very well and sure seems like you're trying to create a problem out of a program that has actually worked pretty well. The number of complaints have dropped over the year and the dire outcomes predicted by those opposed haven't come to pass. The program has helped the ACO's enforcement by making it very clear what is legal off-leash and what is not. The sad part is that there are those who feel that any dog, anywhere is a threat to their personal safety and continually try to use fear tactics to try and tear the program down. Fortunately the data collected by the town proves them wrong. Dogs don't run wild in Arlington. People aren't chased down by dogs. We can't make policies based on fear and unlikely possibilities. We make policies to try and accommodate everyone and there are always compromises on all sides. This program is working.
Pedro Oliveira Jr. November 09, 2011 at 01:39 PM
Somebody: Thank you for your feedback. Do you have suggestions for improving the poll?
sandra weakland November 09, 2011 at 01:46 PM
As a dog owner I feel that afternoon hours would help immensely. Also off leash in the woods at Menotomy Rocks Park would cut down on all hour violations.
Daniel Leonard November 09, 2011 at 02:28 PM
To somebody - well said. And I agree the poll is not worded well. It gives the impression that those opposed to off leash hours are the majority, when in fact, 63% (perhaps 65%) believe there should be off leash hours. We should not bow to the tyranny of the minority.
Robin Varghese November 09, 2011 at 02:52 PM
You have no option for unleashed hours are working but there is a need for more hours during the evening/afternoon. Misleading poll the way it is currently worded.
Pedro Oliveira Jr. November 09, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Thank you for the feedback. I'm trying to run an honest poll to measure what folks are really thinking out there. If you have any thoughts on how to make the options better, please feel free to leave them here or send them on this box—as a few of you already have. Answering to a couple of requests, I have added the last option, "Bylaw is working but hours need to be expanded." But due to the coding of the site, I won't be able to move it up higher or else the votes may get messed up. I do realize that the poll has already been live for about four hours now and that the 40 people who have already voted didn't have the last option. I hope those who didn't vote because they didn't find a fitting answer will come back and vote now that I've added a new one.
Heather L Hatch November 09, 2011 at 04:29 PM
I would like to see afternoon hours also. In addition, they should consider adding parks, like Parallel, to the list. The parks are not used by children at that time of the morning.
inthegloaming November 09, 2011 at 06:03 PM
I don't have a dog, but I walk in the park in the afternoons, and I love the sight of happy dogs frolicking. I'm off the opinion that people who see a dog and freak about what "might" happen should take themselves to a therapist to manage their paranoid anxiety issues, rather than limit the dogs. Companion animals are important to their owners, and vice versa. They're family. Having a long walk on a lovely day in the afternoon, being able to chase a ball and interact with other frolicking happy dogs, is a wonderful thing. I'd vote for extending hours. That being said: just one lazy dog-owner who doesn't clean up the poop can ruin it for the rest of the responsible ones. :-<
Michele Biscoe November 10, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Sombody: Great comment! Please consider expressing these sentiments to the MA DCR as a public comment on the draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Middlesex Fells. We want the DCR to include in the Final RMP legal opportunities to have dogs off-leash on the trails: the draft RMP does not provide additional opportunities for off-leash recreation other than the designated off-leash area at Sheepfold. For more info, see the FellsDOG website: www.FellsDOG.org. The deadline to submit comments on the RMP is November 14. Thank you and good luck, Arlington!
Carol Corchado November 11, 2011 at 01:57 PM
I think the Town of Arlington should put in a fully enclosed dog play area like the Denehy Park in Cambridge. Denehy Park in Cambridge is only open to Cambridge residents. If the town of arlington put one in it should only be used by town residents. This way people who are not dog friendly won't be bothered by us dog loving people. This way you could bring your dog here to play with other dogs anytime you want to up until dark. I have a yellow lab who loves to frolick with other happy dogs and I am in complete agreement with the above comment dogs are family.
Timothy Moloney November 11, 2011 at 02:04 PM
What is so hard to understand there are people who do not feel comfortable around dogs and they do not need to provide a horror story or justify why they feel this way to you, me or anyone else. We can walk our dogs, leashed, anywhere in town. We also have the opportunity to unleash our dogs for 2-3 hours per day in approx. 20 parks. There is no other activity in town with as much dedicated space and time as the unleashed dog program and at no cost to the participant. If more is wanted, pay for it. With all of the issues facing this town, budgets, schools, budgets, Mass Ave, budgets to name just a few, it is mind boggling the number of people who have made this topic the end all be all of town life. "bow to the tyranny of the minority"? OMG! Tim Moloney Dog owner and TMM P1
Sue Doctrow November 12, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Tim, I'm not sure what you're trying to say. We all pay for the parks with our taxes, and some of us supported the override to help the town, agreeing to pay even more taxes. Why are you saying we need to pay even more for recreational resources that are built for other user groups out of town funds? (e.g. playgrounds, rebuilt playing fields, newly rebuilt $500K tennis courts that you and I probably both voted for in Town Meeting a couple of years ago, very nice skateboard park at McClennen). Not sure why you think recreational facilities for residents who happen to be dog owners should be any different. Anyway, Carol, there IS a fenced dog park soon to be under construction at Thorndike field. It will be very similar to the one at Danehy. Tim, lest you worry about taxpayer dollars, 90% of it (it cost about $250K) was paid for by a grant to the town by a foundation whose mission includes funding dog parks. A volunteer "Friends" group will be formed to help care for it. Pedro, thank you for fixing the survey..now it makes more sense.
Sue Doctrow November 12, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Carol, a fenced dog park is going to soon be under construction. See my other comment, below for more info. I personally hope it will NOT be restricted only to Arlington residents. I think it's unfortunate that Cambridge is so restrictive about theirs.
robert bartholomew November 12, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Off leash at Res Beach between Sept 1st and May 31st.At no cost to the taxpayer ! Plenty of parking. This area is fenced in and has a burm surrounding the water, which is partially drained.Thus it is fully enclosed. This would eliminate the problem of Canadian Geese droppings by having another animal to chase them out! However, if the dog owners are not responsible about their dog and its droppings that is proof enough that they are not ready for a dog park. Playgrounds are for children and adults, not for dogs. For example, The Baseball diamond, at Robbins Farm, and outfield is used for Physical Education Classes, at the Brackett School. Also Youth soccer and Babe Ruth Baseball play there. Not to mention The 4th of July concert, as well as several Red Sox games and movies. I am a responsible dog owner and my dog is kept on a leash at all times when being walked. Thanks for listening!!
Timothy Moloney November 13, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Sue, The "other groups" pay a fee to use the fields and parks. "Permit Rates 1. Arlington High School teams and all Arlington Public Schools are EXEMPT for Recreation Fee but must pay $6 per participant/season to DPW. 2. Arlington Recreation Programs, Arlington Youth Organizations, Organized Town Leagues and Sport Organizations, $1.25/participant/season to Recreation and $6/participant/season to DPW. 3. Private, Parochial and non-Arlington Public Schools located within the Town of Arlington,$5/participant/season to Recreation and $6/participant/season to DPW. 4. Arlington Adult Organizations, $15/game/field and $6/participant/season to DPW. 5. Arlington Residents/Team, $20 an hour per field and $6/participant/season to DPW. 6. Non-Resident Youth Organizations, Team and Individuals, $35 an hour per field and $6/participant/season to DPW. 7. Non-Resident Adult Organizations, Team and Individuals, $50 an hour per field and $6/participant/season to DPW " Why? "Fees Collected: The fees collected by Arlington Recreation serve two functions: 1) A portion of the fees collected will be used for emergency repairs to Parks (i.e. lights, fencing, bases, etc.) 2) A portion of the fees collected will be used to cover the administrative cost of field scheduling by Arlington Recreation" http://www.arlingtonma.gov/Public_Documents/ArlingtonMA_Recreation/forms/ArlingtonFieldPolicy_April_2010.pdf Tim
Sue Doctrow November 13, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Tim, read my post. I'm not talking about permitted, organized sports. I'm talking about individual and casually-organized groups of people (e.g. neighbors who meet in some field every morning with their dogs; parents who meet with their young kids in a playground) who use the fields, playgrounds and other facilities for recreational activities. What you're citing are permitted activities (leagues, etc.) that use our town spaces for dedicated activities, during which others cannot use them. That is a completely different situation.
Timothy Moloney November 13, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Sue - A casually organized group with a brochure of rules, regulations, permitted areas and times who secured $250K in private funding to build an exclusive use park on town property and fall under the direction of a town department. Yes, much different.
Sue Doctrow November 14, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Tim, again, I'm not sure what your concern is. No "casual group" secured that dog park funding, as wonderful as it is. It was independently offered to the town, somewhat coincidentally after the Dog Park Task Force had been organized and was exploring sites and costs. One analogous facility to a dog park that I can think of is the skateboard park, though I think that was funded by the Town (I didn't live here when it was built, however).
Timothy Moloney November 15, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Sue - First off, I commend you and everyone else who worked on the program. While trivial to some when compared to other topics, schools, budgets etc. I feel it is a great example of what people can do to affect change at the local level. With that said, we are obviously looking at the program from different vantage points. I believe many still view the unleashed times as the equivalent to walking leashed dog around the block or to the store etc. I do not. Once the by-law was passed and the program initiated, it became like any other group & activity listed in my earlier post. All can still be done on an individual basis at any park or field. However as an organized group a fee is required. Attempting to minimize the structure in place now and when the articles were passed and describe it as just a group of people on a field is a bit of a stretch. You are a founding member and sit on the board of A-Dog, a dues collecting public charity, and driving force behind the change. I fully support a fenced in dog park, but expect as a tax-payer and TMM to be compensated for providing the land. I will sign off now and have enjoyed the conversation. Thanks, Tim
Sue Doctrow January 06, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Tim, Thank-you for your kind words. However, dog owners meeting as friends casually in the parks do NOT constitute an organized group in the same way that permitted leagues and others who pay extra to reserve a field and keep it from the public do. And, it is not the town's policy to charge its residents to compensate it for providing land for other dedicated activity facilities (playgrounds, skateboard parks, etc). However, I don't think I will be able to convince you. Please talk to the Recreation Dept or Park and Rec Commission and ask them to discuss the difference with you. On a brighter note for you and other concerned taxpayers, the foundation is including maintenance fees to get things started at the fenced dog park, and a Friends group will be formed to help carry on with maintenance through volunteer efforts. If it becomes necessary to charge a user fee in the future, that will be considered. That is fair enough given the economic challenges we have as a town. However, such user tags should be considered for other facilities as well. (The Res beach is an approximately similar situation, except that in the case of the beach it is necessary to pay staff salaries, esp lifeguards). Anyway, it seems as though you and I agree on several things, just disagree on some details.

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