Major repairs to the Mid-Columbia’s only off-leash dog park are creating headaches for Tri-City dog lovers.
Richland disclosed last week plans to close Paws-Abilities Place at Badger Mountain Community Park for six months starting Sept. 15.
After dog users complained loudly over the weekend that a full shut-down would eliminate a critical facility for dog-owning apartment dwellers and others, city leaders came up with a temporary spot for large dogs.
The closure does not affect Paws-Abilities’ smaller zone for petite pooches.
The large dog area has been heavily damaged by exhaustive use for five years and ongoing drainage issues. Despite volunteer efforts, it is riddled with holes that threaten both dogs and humans, though no injuries have been reported to date.
Phil Pinard, the city’s parks and recreation manager, said a half-acre spot at Badger Mountain Park could serve as a temporary large dog area. The city would install temporary fencing and double gates, but users would have to bring their own drinking water.
The small dog area will only close if the city is unable to open the alternative site for the larger dogs.
It wants to keep the small dog area from being used by large dogs. It fears owners of large dogs will use it if they have no other option, putting both turf and the smaller pets in jeopardy.
The closure is expected to last into the spring while the city regrades and reseeds the dog park.
We’re doing our best to come up with a solution that has a place for the big dogs to play in and for the little dog area to stay open.
Tom Currie, Tri-City Dog Park Society
Gary Wold, a Pasco resident who has visited the park with his mixed-breed companion Smiley for more than three years, said the park is an important gathering place for both dogs and people. He’s formed enduring friendships while Smiley plays with a Collie friend named Lucy and a mixed breed named Kayla.
“The dogs have kind of formed a pack,” he said. He’s hopeful an alternate site will open in time to keep the camaraderie going.
“We’re doing our best to come up with a solution that has a place for the big dogs to play in and for the little dog area to stay open,” said Tom Currie, president of the Tri-City Dog Park Society, the nonprofit that developed Paws-Abilities Place in 2011 in partnership with the city.
The city alerted users about its plans last week, sending many scrambling to find alternate spots to take their dogs to play and socialize.
Currie said the park’s regular users are justifiably irritated by the late notice, just a week before the planned closure.
But, he said, the park attracts 1,000 visitors every month. The heavy use has damaged the park beyond the ability of volunteers to repair it.
“Big dogs work the big dog park hard,” he said. “People are saying, ‘Well, it’s not that bad,’ It is. Work needs to be done.”
Pinard acknowledged the late notice, but said the timing is unavoidable.
It’s a park that’s overloved. This is exactly what we want, but every once in a while we have to go do some maintenance.
Phil Pinard, Richland parks and recreation manager
Fall is the best time to reseed and the investment now will pay dividends down the road. Paws-Ability has been loved to the point it’s a risk to both humans and dogs.
“It’s kind of an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
If all goes well, dog lovers will have not one but two parks to celebrate next spring.
The parks department has asked the city council to authorize $70,000 in its 2017 budget to complete the next phase of the dog park — a second, two-acre area for large dogs.
If approved, Paws-Ability would always have one area in active use and one in reserve.
“It’s a park that’s overloved. This is exactly what we want, but every once in a while we have to go do some maintenance,” Pinard said.