Seattle’s Off-Leash Plan

After my statement at the Delridge District Community Meeting last week, about Seattle’s upcoming Off-Leash Plan, there were a few questions. Here are a few more.


I have a few questions.


Do we support off-leash? Really?

Yes. We really do. We also support leashed dogs in all our parks and natural spaces (except where they are prohibited). We also support increasing passive recreation opportunities in all our natural places, especially in places that have been long-neglected by the city.

We support off-leash in appropriate places. Not in natural parklands.


Why is Seattle Nature Alliance Concerned?

We represent low-impact, Passive Users of Seattle natural parklands. We do this because Passive-Users are a quiet, introspective, disperse, non-organized non-group. Passive Users are the silent majority. And nature itself has no voice at all.

In contrast, there are a growing number of active/high-impact recreation, specialized-use, highly-organized groups looking for access to our natural spaces for their own forms of recreation. And, at some unknown point, for some unknown reason, Parks started listening to their demands. Quietly, last spring, Parks changed their approach to Natural Areas and Greenspaces from “science-based” to “values-based”. The traditional mode of “Passive-Use Only” is no longer the default. Now, popular demand is the default.

We represent Passive Users and Wild Nature because they need representation in this new demand-based park system. We believe that Nature is more than just green-colored space to recreate in. Nature is alive. It makes us healthy in mind and body. Its deepest value to society lies in what it sparks in the human spirit: creativity, scientific inquiry, exploration, and a sense of community with all living beings.


Are you trying to keep people out of nature?

NO! It is exactly the opposite. I have spent my whole professional life working to strengthen the people-nature connection. It is my life’s work—looking for creative ways to help people find meaningful connections with nature, for their own good and for the good of the planet. I work full-time as a self-employed designer, illustrator and writer on these very subjects and I have a body of work that spans over three decades.

The other two directors of the Seattle Nature Alliance are also committed professionals trying to help people appreciate the wonders of nature. Mark is retired after spending 30 years as a public school teacher in Seattle. In addition to his work at the Alliance, he volunteers at the Pike Place Market, helping 3rd graders connect to the rich heritage of the Market. Rebecca is an artist and former garden/landscape designer and presently works full-time as a Web designer/developer.

Together, the three of us and our membership and legions of followers are trying to make sure that future generations of Seattlites will have an urban lifestyle rich with the benefits of close-by nature.

And, we want wild animals to have a place to live, too.

Thank you.


4 thoughts on “Seattle’s Off-Leash Plan

  1. Thanks for this post. Below are comments from Laurelhurst re the strategic off leash plan.


    November 3, 2015

    Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent

    Seattle Parks and Recreation Department

    100 Dexter Avenue North

    Seattle, Washington 98109

    Re: Off-Leash Area Strategic Plan

    Dear Superintendent Aguirre,

    Thank you for soliciting public input on future policies of the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department regarding dogs in parks, particularly off-leash dogs in parks and development of a strategic plan. The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees (LCC) strongly urges you to continue to support existing designated off-leash areas, but also to actively enforce leash laws in all other areas of our parks.

    Magnuson Park, near our neighborhood, is one such area. We have noticed many, many people disobeying the rules about restricting off-leash dogs to the designated area. These off-leash dogs running around throughout the park often threaten small children and other dogs that are on a leash. When off-leash dogs run up and growl at people or jump on them, the owners frequently say, “He’s just being friendly.” Some of our members have even been bitten, at which point these scofflaws usually say, “Gee, he’s never done that before.” Then they run away before they can be identified and held to account.

    We have also noticed the damage that off-leash dogs do to the environment. Dogs have been spotted harassing waterfowl in the ponds. In nesting season, this could cause ducks to abandon nests altogether. Seattle Audubon has told us they are convinced off-leash dogs are responsible for extirpating Ring-necked Pheasants at Magnuson, a big loss to the birding community and to everyone who appreciates these magnificent birds. The county fish and wildlife people have told us they believe off-leash dogs are responsible for killing many of the beavers on the Arboretum side of Union Bay, whose carcasses end up distressing everyone who sees them wash up on the shores of the Union Bay Natural Area.

    Wild urban habitat is one of the precious jewels in the crown of Seattle Parks & Recreation. It enables children to learn about nature right in their own backyard. It grants serenity to those who seek respite from the frantic pace of city life. Off-leash dogs harass and sometimes destroy wild birds and mammals, threaten small children and on-leash dogs, and disturb the peace of nature. Many of us love dogs and own them ourselves. Dogs in the city are great, but they must be on leash in our parks other than in off-leash areas. Years ago voters supported the idea of dog parks to allow dogs to run free. LCC supports the dog parks that have been established in the area. They are the appropriate place for off-leash dogs.

    We believe the best way to keep everyone safe is to proactively enforce the laws and rules we already have. Owners should be cited and fined when they take their dogs off leash anywhere outside of the designated off-leash area in the parks. We urge you to work with the Seattle Police Department and Animal Control to hold a Leash Law week or month during which citations will be actively given to anyway breaking the law. A similar campaign that focused on drivers blocking intersections was highly effective. We also urge you to put up signs in all the parks, spelling out the leash laws and warning offenders that they risk substantial fines. You might also consider a public service campaign urging dog owners to obey the leash laws, and encouraging responsible owners to speak up.

    We believe these simple actions will do much to preserve our parks for the enjoyment of everyone, including dogs and their owners. We hope our comments are helpful as you move forward in developing a strategic plan. Thank you for considering the views of the Laurelhurst Community Club.


    Jeannie Hale

    LCC President

    3424 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

    Seattle, Washington 98105


    cc: Leah Tivoli, Strategic Advisor in the Superintendent’s Office

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