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Leashed dogs get permanent use of 8 Ashland parks

ASHLAND — Leashed dogs are now permanently allowed in eight Ashland parks — as long as they stay on or within 6 feet of paved surfaces.

Ashland Parks Commission members on Monday decided to make permanent rule changes that have allowed leashed dogs in Garden Way, Clay Street, Garfield, Hunter, Railroad, Scenic, Sherwood and Triangle parks for the past year. Dogs are still not allowed in Lithia, North Mountain and Bluebird parks.

"There are a lot of people with dogs. This is a big issue," said Commissioner Rich Rosenthal.

Last year, parks workers installed signs explaining the rules at the newly designated dog-friendly parks. They also put up stations that dispense bags for picking up dog waste. Dog owners are required to carry a means of picking up after their animals at all times.

Some people still don't pick up after their dogs. Others allow the animals to roam away from paved surfaces or off their leashes altogether, according to testimony at Monday's meeting. Those people face citations and fines of more than $200.

But other dog owners are behaving responsibly, according to testimony.

Some residents at the meeting wanted dogs to be allowed anywhere in the designated parks.

Faye Weisler said parks can't really be called dog-friendly if the animals must stay within 6 feet of sidewalks. She said allowing people and their pets more room to roam would make them happier.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for more joy," she said.

Rosenthal, who is running for the City Council in the November election, and parks Commissioner Stefani Seffinger were in the minority in wanting to allow leashed dogs throughout the designated parks.

In a compromise move, they joined with Commissioner Rick Landt to make the one-year trial rules permanent.

Commissioners JoAnne Eggers and Jim Lewis voted against extending the rules permanently.

Eggers said people go to parks to relax, and many can't do so when dogs are around.

Resident James Freeberg said he has been bitten by dogs four times in his life.

He said the animals are a nuisance at best and a danger at worst.

"I don't want to see any more parks open to dogs," he said. "I want to see more parks for people without dogs."

Parks Commission candidate Vanston Shaw attended the meeting and said he favored allowing dogs throughout designated parks, not just around paved surfaces.

He is running against resident Vicki Tripoli, but Tripoli said she is unlikely to take the commission seat if elected because of a family medical crisis.

The two filed election paperwork this summer to compete for the seat now held by Eggers, who is not seeking re-election.

For years, Ashland has had an off-leash dog park off Nevada Street in lower Ashland.

But the town was derided on tourism websites as one of the most dog-unfriendly cities in America back when dogs were banned at all Ashland parks except the Dog Park.

Dog owners also had complained that they pay property taxes to support Ashland parks, but were not able to fully use them.

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