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Dog ban idea at Ashland Ponds doesn't sit well

A proposal to ban dogs in the Ashland Ponds area got some pushback from seven neighbors who challenged the notion at the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Monday.

The ponds provide a short loop and level walk around some riparian areas with easy access from the adjacent neighborhood north of West Nevada Street. The beginning of the trail has a dog waste bag station and garbage can, a tacit acknowledgment of the area as a dog-friendly park.

Wayne Cameron lives near the entrance to the ponds trail and walks his dogs there twice daily. He said banning dogs would hurt a lot of neighbors and their pets.

“There’s a gentleman who lives in the area who is wheelchair bound,” Cameron said. “He walks his big, fluffy dog down there usually once a day I tell you if you ban dogs in that area, that would be a big detriment to his quality of life.”

In a staff report, Commissioner Rick Landt is attributed with stating that the ponds are visited frequently by wildlife such as river otters, hooded mergansers, red shouldered hawks, sharp shinned hawks and blue herons. The secluded habitat and plethora of animal species in the 22-acre parcel make it a candidate as a wildlife refuge, which would exclude dogs.

The dog walkers said they see the argument that dogs would be a detriment to wildlife viewing as thin and that they see many more dog walkers than nature viewers daily.

A few speakers, including Pamela Kuhn, noted there aren’t many sidewalks in the neighborhood.

“We take our dog (to the pond) twice a day and he’s been hit by a car on Nevada Street so we don’t really want to be on the streets,” Kuhn said. “There’s not a lot of sidewalks. I’m usually walking with my 6-year-old and (the pond) offers a nice respite that you don’t totally get at the dog park. Our dog isn’t good at the dog park. Not to be crude, but he’s a ‘humper,’ so it’s not always a great experience at the dog park.”

Other neighbors also said they don’t find the dog park ideal for all dogs, and that many people enjoy the exercise of walking their pet. Also, there’s no direct path from the neighborhood to the dog park except for a crude user-made path beside the wastewater treatment plant.

Some noted that house cats wander into the park and kill more creatures than any dog on a leash could, and the cats can’t be excluded.

Cameron said humans are just as intrusive to the area as dogs.

“If you’re going to exclude dogs, you might as well exclude people, too,” he said.

Dogs, cats and people soon won’t be the only intrusions upon area wildlife. A 24-inch outfall pipe from the wastewater treatment plant is scheduled for installation in the area, possibly sometime in 2020, according to Public Works Director Paula Brown.

Laurie True said expecting neighbors to put up with that kind of construction for years and not allowing them to walk their dogs in the area wasn’t fair.

“The pond will be drained to lay the pipe, there will be ditches dug, bulldozers and all wildlife will run towards the hills and be gone for I don’t know how long,” True said. “You want this wildlife refuge area and then you want to kick us out it doesn’t seem fair.”

Commissioners agreed this type of construction would cause far more commotion than a dog on the end of the leash.

Commissioner Joel Heller said it made no sense to him to decide on the issue now.

“The other thing that is striking to me is it does seem kind of disingenuous to be talking about this refuge at the time we’re about to start tearing up the land,” Heller said.

Eventually, wetland-like cooling ponds are planned for the southwestern side of the Ashland Ponds, potentially offering walking paths. Commissioners suggested perhaps these ponds could serve as the future wildlife refuge or dog walking area.

“I think there may be some compromises that can enhance the ability to support this area as a wildlife area and at the same time provide opportunities for dog walking ... and I’d like staff to pursue those,” Landt said.

Commissioners informally agreed dogs can continue to visit the ponds area and that they would reconsider the issue after the outfall pipeline is installed.

If the ponds area is designated a wildlife refuge, staff would prioritize removal of invasive plant species such as the abundance of blackberry shrubs.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Andy Atkinson / Daily TidingsA family walks its dog up the path away from the Ashland Ponds Wednesday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Daily TidingsGeese fly to the Ashland Pond.