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Dog park opening prompts education campaign

Ashley Memorial Dog Park unveils soft opening
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s first dog park is officially open for business. Workers recently put up the last fence. And dog owners can take their furry friends over to use the 1.7-acre park now. Auburn Recreation District and Auburn Police Department officials are using the park’s “soft” opening as an opportunity to spread the word about appropriate uses of other district parks. The Auburn Police Department will begin an aggressive education campaign informing residents about the rules concerning dogs at parks like Railhead, which has been used as the de facto dog park in Auburn for years, said Kahl Muscott, ARD administrator. A police volunteer corps of 15 will begin daily patrols of Auburn parks. “Initially, we want to educate the public about the appropriate uses of the park(s),” said Capt. Jim Weldon of the Auburn Police Department. “Down the road, we will take it more seriously.” Weldon said following the initial education period, department volunteers and officers will result to issuing citations for those who don’t comply. “Our intent isn’t to cite people,” Weldon said. “We don’t want to get to that point, but we will. We will watch and see what the effects of our efforts are and if we find people aren’t being responsive, then we will be more forceful in our efforts.” According to Auburn Municipal Code section 6-1.511, an infraction for a first conviction for hav-ing “at-large” animals — those without a leash — would be punishable by a fine of no more than $100. For a second conviction within a year, a fine of no more than $200 could be imposed and for a third or subsequent conviction within one year, a fine of no more than $500 could be imposed. “We know for a fact that a lot of people have been using (Railhead),” Muscott said. “We just want them to know that the dog park is open. Everybody has been patient but we really want to get people over to the dog park and off the fields.” No dog owners were seen with their dogs Tuesday afternoon at Railhead park, but Weldon said he saw roughly a dozen dogs out early Tuesday morning. “And that would be considered a slow day,” Muscott said. “Dogs need to be on leashes and off the fields. We basically want people to be responsible dog owners. The dog park is open and there is no reason people shouldn’t be using it.” The now opened Ashley Memorial Dog Park hasn’t reached reality without controversy. Efforts to build the dog park have been in the works for more than three years, and have been hotly debated. District officials have held several public hearings, meetings and discussed the possibility of building the park at several locations, including Overlook, Railhead and Recreation parks. ARD directors approved the dog park to be built on 3 acres at Auburn’s Ashford Park off Auburn Ravine Road March 29. But dog park proponents scaled back plans back after they received several complaints from the public and directors unanimously approved the 1.7-acre boundary for the park at a May 31 meeting. Directors unanimously approved the Ashley Memorial Dog Park’s final site plan Nov. 29 and adopted a mitigated negative declaration for the project. Once complete, the park will feature a walking path around the perimeter, a 74-foot by 54-foot man-made pond, dog waste stations and separate play areas for large and small dogs. The park is named in honor of Ashley Memorial Dog Park Foundation president Kathleen Harris’ late daughter, Ashley Harris Haupt. A grand opening is set for mid-summer, when all the dog park features are complete. The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com.