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Some Prineville residents ask for off-leash areas on city's Barnes Butte property

City officials are currently considering changes to a dog ordinance in response to recent complaints on some of its new park properties.

Citizens have reported issues with uncontrolled dogs off leashes at both the Crooked River Wetlands Complex and the city-owned Barnes Butte property, prompting a move to change the city code and prevent further problems.

"I really wanted to keep the rules as minimal as possible, but we are getting too many complaints about dogs being off leash, dogs being out of control and people not taking care of the dog waste," said City Engineer Eric Klann.

However, once the city's plans went public, another group of people pushed back, urging local officials to reconsider leash requirements on the Barnes Butte property. Three people have voiced their concerns at recent Prineville City Council meetings, including John Rounds, who spoke Tuesday evening.

"I like to get away from the people and let my dog run. I have her under control, and if I see other people, I put her on a leash," the Prineville resident said. "There are a lot of us people who do that, and we would like to be able to keep doing that."

Rounds and the two others who appealed to the council agree that dogs should remain on a leash at the wetlands complex, but they argue that the much more spacious Barnes Butte property offers a rare public location where dogs can run and play without interrupting others.

Tuesday evening, the council considered the revised dog ordinance, which applies current dog leash requirements to "all property owned, leased or controlled by the city."

Councilor Steve Uffelman said he "feels awkward not providing an adequate place for people to permit their dogs to run." Klann said in response that people can take their dogs to a fenced dog park near the Crook County Fairgrounds, however Mayor Betty Roppe disagreed that the facility is adequate.

"I take my dog out there, and it doesn't run at all because it is enclosed," she said. "There are no trees and only a few willows."

Klann went on to note that a focus committee is meeting monthly to determine how the Barnes Butte property will be used. That effort is expected to include discussion about where leashes will be required, as well as other topics, with the end goal of developing a master plan for the property.

Councilor Teresa Rodriguez argued that since a master plan is not yet developed, the city should wait to pass a revised dog ordinance. Otherwise, dog owners might get penalized doing something that a master plan would allow at a later date.

In response, City Attorney Jered Reid explained that the revision affects the wetland property, which is county owned, but not the Barnes Butte property.

"Technically, right now our ordinance already says that people in the Barnes Butte area need to have a leash (on their dog) because it is within the city limits," he said.

However, Reid went on to say that the revised ordinance provides an opportunity to make exceptions at different parks throughout the city, an option Klann embraces since the Barnes Butte property differs considerably from other parks.

While Rodriguez talked about pumping the brakes on an ordinance, Uffelman presented a reason to move forward on it as soon as possible.

"I feel that time is of the essence," he said, "because at the wetland, the birds are coming in for the spring. This is a time when we need to get that (dog issue) under control."

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the dog ordinance for its first presentation and will consider and discuss it a second time at a future meeting. Meanwhile, Klann expects the Barnes Butte property focus committee to look at the issue in more depth in the weeks ahead.

"This will be a hot topic of conversation," he said, "to figure out something in the interim before we get a master plan in place."

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