City Studies New Off-Leash Areas

A pup plays frisbee at Arroyo Burro
Paul Wellman

In response to howls of displeasure over too few options, Santa Barbara may create new off-leash dog areas within the city. The Parks and Recreation Department released a report Wednesday that names the top four site contenders: Dwight Murphy Field, Ortega Park, MacKenzie Park, the Sheffield Reservoir Open Space. City staff looked at 49 different spaces before whittling down their options.

Parks and Recreation commissioners voted to accept the report and said the department will keep studying the pros and cons of each area, looking at parking, fencing requirements, noise, poop abatement, compatibility with other uses, and tree and turf management. They also suggested city staff give Plaza Veracruz Park more consideration, noting the small slice of grass off Haley Street is currently underused.

The report, which can be read here, says that fencing certain sections of each space will likely prove the best and easiest strategy. Ideally, each section would be no smaller than 1/3 of an acre.

Right now, the city’s off-leash dog areas are restricted to the Douglas Family Preserve, part of Arroyo Burro County Beach Park, Hale Park, and Elings Park, which are all on the southern edges of Santa Barbara. They cover a total of 305 acres. The new spaces would offer better access for more inland residents, the report states, and maybe even cut back on the high hound traffic through the Douglas Family Preserve.

It’s unclear how much it would cost to fence off and maintain the new areas, as well as build amenities like bathrooms, lighting, water spigots, and so on. That information will come out in later studies. Regardless, more off-leash options would be a good thing for active residents and their pets, the report states, as “an exercised dog is a more obedient and healthy dog.”

The next Parks and Recreation meeting on the matter will be scheduled at a later date. Since no funding source currently exists, and because only one public commenter showed up for Wednesday’s hearing, commissioners said they are in no hurry to hammer out a final plan.


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