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Mutual Respect Policy Called for in Riverside Park Between Dog Walkers and UEC

by Stacy Conroy

People who walk their dogs in the park near Riverside University High School, just east of the river, are technically breaking a county ordinance. They can be (and sometimes are) ticketed. But it’s one of the biggest, safest green spaces around. So what’s a dog-walker to do? Over the years, conflicts have occurred between dog walkers and the Urban Ecology Center (UEC), which uses the park as an outdoor classroom for neighborhood schools. Children attending classes outdoors at the center often find themselves distracted by dog activity or frightened by an approaching off-leash pet. In an attempt to find peaceful solutions to potential conflicts between the “River Dog Walker’s Association” and the UEC, a meeting was held at the UEC office in late September. The goal of the meeting was to inform the dog walking community of changes coming related to the redevelopment of Riverside Park, and to find solutions to the conflicts that occasionally exist between the two groups. Pieter Godfrey, an owner of property that is adjacent to Riverside Park, spoke to give his perspective of how dog walkers and the Center may be able to get along in the park. The dog walker’s association’s view is that the dog walkers have been in the park as long or longer than the ecology organization, have been instrumental in eliminating crime in the park, and deserve to share the park equally. Leinbach did not disagree, but he pointed out that it is currently against county ordinance to even have a dog in Riverside Park (leash or no leash), and that a mutual respect policy needs to be implemented. The UEC currently holds the preservation lease to the parkland and is willing to approach the county board and ask that Riverside be changed to a “dog friendly” park where it is legal to walk a dog “on-leash.” This would allow people to walk with a dog in the park and not be liable for a citation from police. However, it seems that there will always be people who take a risk and let their dogs run off-leash. It is those individuals to whom Leinbach appealed. He requested that any time dog walkers see groups of children or adults taking part in Center programs that they consider the park an “outdoor classroom” and head the other direction or leave the area. “It is extremely difficult to keep the attention of a group when there are dogs approaching,” said Leinbach. Most people like dogs, but there are also people who are terrified by a loose dog and become fearful they will be attacked. It was decided that the UEC would make an effort to influence the county ordinance of Riverside Park to allow dogs on-leash. However, it is also going to be the request of UEC that dog owners act responsibly and do everything possible to accommodate the programs offered at the park as well as non-dog walking visitors. It is also necessary that dog walkers continue to diligently clean up after their dogs and even take the waste with them when they leave the park, easing the burden of having to conduct classes near the stench of waste receptacles full of dog feces. Related Articles: Grassroots Group Formed to Advocate Off-Leash Dog Park and Pet Tales: Dogs Find Health and Happiness through Vigorous Exercise Stacy Conroy is encouraging area dog walkers to mobilize and find an alternate site to establish a legal off-leash exercise area. This would give dog owners the security of knowing they would not be issued citations or run into others who are fearful of dogs. If you would like to help in this effort, please contact Stacy Conroy at or leave a message at the Riverwest Currents office at 265-7278. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 10 – November 11
by Stacy Conroy