In 1995 and again in 2006 Metro proposed two bond measures to acquire land for future parks. Portlanders enthusiastically supported these acquisitions. Unbeknownst to most of us, the Metro Council then took the unusual step to ban all dogs from these future parks!
None of the public information circulated during the bond measure campaigns provided any clue that Metro intended to exclude pets from the land they purchased. I only learned of this dog ban because I am a member of Metro’s North Tualatin Trails Natural Area Development Project.
Please consider these 5 points:
- Two bond measures were passed and the proceeds used to acquire parklands. During the bond measure campaigns there was no mention of prohibiting pets. The subsequently imposed dog ban stopped 62.7% of our population from using those public amenities, because they owned dogs. Voters were not endorsing a dog prohibition. But that’s exactly what the Metro Council did. By enforcing this dog ban across its four county jurisdiction, Metro is penalizing dog-owners and it’s refusing to even acknowledge that there is opposition to this sledge-hammer policy.
- Portlanders have legally walked their dogs in these natural areas for nearly 4 decades – even when the areas were in private ownership. Now that Metro owns it, they want to restrict access and enforce a total dog ban. This conflict reflects a trade-off between prior users’ needs and habitat protection, and it deserves a more nuanced approach than an across-the-board ban on all dogs in all Metro parks.
- Pet owners should accept selective exclusions for dogs, especially in areas with sensitive game populations. We also need to enforce our existing leash laws more assiduously, but we should oppose the total exclusion of dogs from all 17,000 acres of our regional parks. This is a clumsy solution that will only engender opposition to all land conservation efforts. It encourages the most ardent champions of outdoor recreation to oppose further land acquisitions, for fear of losing the last remaining spots for rural dog walking.
- All efforts to initiate a dialogue with Metro about the legitimacy and efficacy of this policy have so far been ignored. You really have to search Metro’s voluminous website to find any mention of the dog ban. All Metro announcements heralding the opening of new parks avoid any mention of dogs. Metro believes this is a “settled” issue since it’s “Metro policy” and they scrub any mention of opposition as irrelevant.
- Finally, data from the 2014-2015 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) reinforces the importance of dog walking for Portlanders:
- Dogs are the second biggest motivator to recreate in nature.
- Half of Portlanders (49%) want more trails to run their dogs.
The inequities of this ban are so clear it’s hard to understand why Metro won’t consider a more thoughtful case-by-case approach.
Like King Canute they should adopt more effective means to achieve their goals.
Board Secretary, Columbia Land Trust
Author, Portland Forest Hikes, Timber Press, 2007
Vice-chair, Oregon Recreational Trail Advisory Council (OPRD)
Member, Salmonberry Trail Development Committee (ODF)
Member, North Tualatin Natural Area Development Project (Metro)