Let me start out by saying that I feel bad for Bellevue Council parks and recreation committee chair Lynn Tennant Heffley. She's taking the heat for decisions that are being made by a lot of other people. It's part of the nature of doing anything by committee, which can be both a blessing and a curse. The curse part comes in when, as chair, you have the duty to announce the decisions and reasoning of the whole committee. It's a double curse when the committee is saying stupid stuff, which is the case in the recent decision not to substantially change the rules at Bayne Park.
Granted, the committee also plans to do a more indepth analysis of all of the borough's parks, but at the same time is moving forward with the ordinance that will ban smoking in the park. That's a major rule change. Shouldn't it wait for the more detailed plan for the parks? If this council can push through one major rule change, why can't it handle another, like allowing leashed dogs in the park?
The committee decided against allowing Fido to come to a concert in the park with his family for several reasons, which I will list in ascending order of stupidity: 1. The borough already has a dog park; 2. Liability concerns; 3. It wouldn't be sanitary.
Now, let's take a look at those reasons.
1. The borough already has a dog park: That sentence kind of says it all. It's a DOG park, also known as a park for DOGS. It is not a family gathering spot. In fact, if your family includes very young members, you are not allowed to to bring them into the dog park. That's because the entire point of the dog park is to allow dogs to engage in natural, dog-type behavior that is not particularly safe for children. The dogs run in packs. They wrestle and jump around...a lot. If anyone has been to the Dog Woods and seen a group of 80 lbs. + dogs heading straight at you, you are familiar with saying quick prayers, such as "Thank God I have health insurance." But what Dog Woods people also know is that most of the time they leave there with relaxed, even exhausted, dogs who are not spending the rest of their time barking nonstop at the neighbor's windchime or lunging aggressively at other dogs, cats and/or children. They need a place to engage in dog behaviors so they can come home and humor us by being good citizens of suburbia.
And if we let them, they can be those perfectly polite citizens at on-leash functions when they get to do the thing they love most -- be out with their families. People lead busy, busy lives. Give them a chance to do something with the WHOLE family, and they will jump at it.
2. Liability: Really? From a borough that allows children to skateboard on cement without helmets? From a borough that operates a swimming pool? There is liability in everything. That is why the borough has insurance.
3. Sanitary concerns: Okay, this is the funny one. Yes, there undoubtedly will be idiots who do not clean up after their dogs. I think it will happen much less often than some people might think, especially when the dogs remain leashed and there are multiple witnesses. But when did an outdoor, public park become a sanitary environment in the first place? Do they think the squirrels and birds are going outside the park when nature calls, so to speak? And how about all the people wearing shoes that have walked through who knows what before stepping into Bayne Park? I don't care how much hand sanitizer you apply, you are going to interact with some substances in a park that we all probably don't want to know about.
People are going to Pirates games with their dogs. People are going to Riverview Park to walk the trails with their dogs, something that is prohibited on Bellevue's trails in Memorial Park. But they can't go to a movie in Bayne Park?
Well, that's just squirrel poop.