The Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission will discuss tonight whether to allow dogs on more park land.

The Ashland Parks & Recreation Commission will discuss tonight whether to allow dogs on more park land.

The session begins at 6:30 p.m. in the parks office, located at 340 S. Pioneer Street in upper Lithia Park. The commission will first discuss creek and wetland issues before delving into the dog topic.

Dogs are banned in most developed parks in Ashland, but dog owners have been pushing for more access, especially after the grounds of a former elementary school were closed to canines.

Commissioners will not be taking public opinions about dogs during the study session, and they will not make a decision on the issue.

"We have received dozens of comments both for and against opening more park land to dogs," Commissioner JoAnne Eggers said. "The input has been thoughtful and heartfelt and we are considering it seriously."

Parks Director Don Robertson predicted that the parks commissioners will spend about 30 minutes on the topic of dogs and will let parks staff know what additional information they will need to decide whether to allow dogs on more park land.

Robertson said he doesn't believe that any of the commissioners are comfortable opening up Lithia Park to dogs.

Dog lovers have requested that the parks department open up neighborhood parks to dogs, at least on a trial basis. Most have not pushed for dog access to Lithia Park, although some do want to be able to visit Ashland's signature park with their pets.

During the past week, the parks department has been seeking public input via the city of Ashland website on the issue of whether to allow dogs on more undeveloped park land.

The Parks Commission previously held a public forum and accepted numerous comments on the topic of allowing dogs in developed parks.

Undeveloped parcels where dogs are not allowed include parks department-owned land behind the Ashlander Apartments on Siskiyou Boulevard and undeveloped park land next to an affordable housing project on lower Clay Street.

Dogs are allowed on many parcels of park land where parks have yet to be built. There is also a dog park off Nevada Street, and dogs and their owners can use trails in the Ashland Watershed and along a Talent Irrigation District canal.

Parks staff and Ashland School District staff have held discussions about using the grounds of Lincoln Elementary School as a dog park, parks staff said.

The school was closed several years ago due to falling enrollment. Neighbors used the grounds as a de facto dog park until the school district posted signs on its properties banning dogs earlier this year.

"The use of the school grounds is at the discretion of the Ashland School District Board of Directors," Eggers said. "The Parks Commission does not set policy or make rules regarding school property. If the school district is interested in pursuing the idea, we are open to working with them. After all, we are one community."

To comment on the idea to open more undeveloped park land to dogs, send an email to dyssegs@ashland.or.us. Suggestions will be reviewed and discussed at the Monday study session.

To view a map of park land where dogs are currently allowed, visit www.ashland.or.us/Files/DogFriendly.pdf.

Reach Daily Tidings staff reporter Vickie Aldous at vlaldous@yahoo.com or 541-479-8199.